Water Philosophy in Brief

Weekly Writing Challenge: Ice, Water, Steam

(Stream of consciousness philosophizing going on here.
Read at your own risk. ūüėČ )

 

Mutable

Who I am is not who I was. And yet, without who I was I would not be who I am.

Ice is not without its essence ~ water.

Steam is not without its essence ~ water.

Perhaps, then, it could be argued that water is the soul of ice and steam, just as the essence of my Self is the soul of my art, my writing, my equestrian pursuits.

For without the essence of Self, these aspects of my life would not exist, just as ice and steam would not exist without their essence ~ water.

Hmmm … makes a girl think. ūüėČ

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

¬©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

In Hindsight …

Weekly Writing Challenge: Hindsight is 20/20

To me the word “hindsight” smacks of regret, and worry, and wasted energy, but for this exercise I’ll lay aside my misgivings and share a brief examination of some things I wish I’d done, in hindsight, in 2014.

This¬†year has been a time of tremendous growth and recovery¬†on so many levels. In particular, after three years of adrenal fatigue malaise I’m finally feeling more robust and vital.

Perhaps I have a trip to Italy in early June to thank for that.

(Hindsight: how much sooner would my energy have¬†improved had I gone to Italy for two weeks in June each of the previous three years? Hmmmm … )

For two glorious weeks we indulged in la dolce vita. We delighted in the exquisite flavours of non-GMO foods; basked under the unrelenting Tuscan sun; devoured daily doses of delectable gelato and, of course, took in all the marvellous sights and sounds that define this ancient nation.

We landed in beautiful Florence for a few days; spent a tranquil week at a magnificent villa in Tuscany, and revelled in the unique experience that is Venice. It was the vacation of a life time and, I believe, an important milestone on my healing path.

(Hindsight: more gelato would have been good … )

The Villa
Villa in Tuscany

Then, in late June, I began a six-month course in Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning. By the end of it I was certified as a practitioner in this profound healing modality. A happy side effect was my own healing in ways I had not previously imagined.

This is another reason, I believe, the adrenal fatigue has become less chronic.

Free Spirit

(Hindsight: if only I’d known about it sooner, I probably would have signed myself up ages ago … (sigh) … )

But this is my point about hindsight … to me life unfolds as it should. The best we can hope is to be, and make the most of, every moment.

I do my best not to hold grudges; not to make comebacks. Most people can’t help who they are ~ not that this gives them an excuse to be belligerent or rude or ignorant or insensitive¬†~ but to engage in their negative energy is, for me at least, a waste of my own valuable resources. As well, if I were to beat myself up for every little thing I wish I’d done but hadn’t had the presence of mind to do, there wouldn’t be much of me left. Quite frankly, I’ve spent far too much of my life doing that anyway.

If the¬†adrenal fatigue has taught me anything it’s to release the need to stress unnecessarily¬†and to save my energy for¬†the things that make me feel good about myself and my contribution to the world.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that my life¬†really started to change for the positive at the beginning of the year when I moved my horse, Shakespeare (Bear), to a new barn and began to work with a new coach. Notwithstanding the fact that I wear the badge of¬†a¬†woman-of-a-certain-age¬†I feel like I’ve been given a second chance to learn and grow in my equestrian¬†sport of choice¬†~ dressage.

There’s a long road ahead, but at least now I know that Bear and I are¬†on a¬†good¬†one.

Bear
Shakespeare

And so now, I thrive!

(Hindsight:¬†it would have been a good idea to move my horse earlier, but I’ve already beaten myself up enough about that one. Where we are now is where we’re meant to be and the timing of December 31, 2013 was right. Prior to that I was too debilitated with¬†adrenal fatigue symptoms to make¬†such a decision or move. So, it’s all good … )

Now, foresight … it’s going to be a great 2015!

Season’s Greetings and Merry Christmas …

Dorothy

¬©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

 

The Writer’s Nightmare

Weekly Writing Challenge: Poetry

¬†The Writer’s Nightmare

No inspiration,
There is none,
I sit here, void, and
Twiddle thumbs.
It’s writer’s block that
Bogs me down.
The channel closed;
My smile a frown.
I patiently await a sign,
A notion that
Might just be mine,
That from the Ether
Will descend
And soon to Earth
Through me be penned.
But somehow it
Has missed
Its mark,
The channel
Unaligned; no
Spark.
A shift in
Wave length
Must be wrought
Before the
Words flow
Into thought.
So ’til that time I
Wait and
Wait and wait and
Wait and wait and wait,
Til once again Muse
Can be free
With words and thus
Inspire me.

~*~

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Resurrection

 Lambs in Spring

Little white balls of beautiful fluff,

Bouncing and prancing and that kind of stuff.

Baaing and whimpering here and there

Sometimes they’ll do nothing but stop and stare.

Crying for mother on a lovely spring day,

Mother comes running; decides to stay.

Bounding and twisting round and round,

Looking for something no other lamb’s found.

~*~

This is the first poem I remember writing.

I was 10 years old at the time and my form teacher at school had issued a challenge during an English lesson to write a poem for spring. It would have been this time of year, in fact.

I wrote it. Handed it in.

A few days later the teacher was distributing the marks and asking some of us to read our poems to the class.

On my paper he’d written “Very Good!” but in front of the class he asked me, “Are you sure you didn’t copy this from somewhere?”

I was a tender and insecure child being raised in a broken home and in the shadow of my mother’s operatic glory. To have the¬†light shone on me at all was difficult enough but to be accused, perhaps even in jest, that the work I’d handed in was not my own totally mortified me. I defended myself, of course, and he seemed to accept it, but I have never forgotten how ill¬†it made me feel to have¬†someone¬†question my integrity as a writer.

I know this poem by memory. To me it is one of my greatest early writing achievements. If I ever publish a proper book of my best poems this will have pride of place on the first page.

All other writing has sprung from this creative moment. It was the first time I saw myself as a writer and, ironically, the first time (and hopefully the last time) I was accused of plagiarism.

There was a huge gap of time before I was able to see myself as a writer in adulthood. Though I kept journals and occasionally wrote poetry I had disassociated when I was growing up so pursuing dreams and cultivating my talents was beyond my comprehension or ability.

It wasn’t until a kindly woman, my boss at the time, gave me a good, swift kick in the proverbial derriere¬†(I was in my late 20s) that I began¬†to awaken from my deep creative malaise and see myself as a writer, perhaps for the first time. I was working as her administrative assistant in the corporate relations department of a real estate association, and she saw something in me she thought needed cultivating. However, she had to threaten to fire me before I was able to wake up enough to see it myself.

This incredible woman waded through the muck of my unconsciousness to find something long hidden and almost lost, and gave me the opportunity to reclaim it. She taught me how to build an employee newsletter ~ research, write, edit, produce. It started at four pages and, as I got the hang of it, quickly grew to eight pages. Circulation about 150. I learned quickly and loved doing it. In time I was promoted to Editor of the association newsletter ~ a weekly publication circulated to more than 25,000 realtors in the Greater Toronto Area.

I suppose I share this to demonstrate the difference people can make in our lives, and to demonstrate that if we can only get out of our own way we might resurrect an important piece of our life puzzle.

Had my school teacher been more supportive and understood me and my life situation better he might not have been so free with his accusation and I might have had more confidence to pursue this obvious talent. There was no one at home to do this, so left to my own devices, confused and with nowhere to turn, my only alternative was to let it go. Even as a child it hurt too much to have my integrity questioned.

But, as I’ve learned, it takes just one person to¬†see potential and show you what’s possible for you to start believing in yourself. And, as I am learning again in these middle years while pursuing a long-lost equestrian dream with a new coach, this can happen at any time in your life.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections

 

 

 

 

When The Student is Ready …

This week’s Free Write Friday prompt from Kellie Elmore

I didn’t understand it then, but I understand it now …

“I didn’t understand because I couldn’t understand, I wasn’t ready, Joe.” So said Magnolia as she gazed absently out the window trying to explain her life to me.

“For a time in our lives are eyes are not open wide enough to see what really matters. Our vision is narrowed by the prejudices and the illusions with which others, chiefly our family because they are the ones who first influence us, endow us. We learn to see the world their way, and for most of us the view is disconnected. They have a need to be validated through our eyes” She pauses. ” Still, if their ways are harmful, should we then perpetuate their dysfunctional view just to seek their approval?”

It’s a good question, purely rhetorical, but I answer anyway.

“What’s this got to do with me?” I respond, my ignorance laid bare. She doesn’t miss a beat.

“You are in danger of remaining a slave to the beliefs of those who have come before; of those who have patterned your life,” she says, convinced of her truth. “You are angry all the time, as displayed by your need to curse at the slightest provocation. You criticize where none is warranted. You are defensive to the point of being hostile. You hurt the people who matter most, including yourself, but don’t see it. You do not see it because you are not ready to understand there is another way.”

I suppose I could get defensive as I stand here in Magnolia’s glow. But I can’t, because that’s just it. She is glowing. She is so serene I feel something I don’t know I’ve ever felt before … a sense of peace.

Could she be right?

Could it be that my hostile way of dealing with life is due to an inability to see my Self beyond the programming of my forebears?

“It can be undone … to a degree,” she says, as if reading my mind. “But you must be willing to become self-aware; to explore the rooms of your soul that are darkest and frighten you the most. You must shed light in them, rummage through the crowded closets of negative thought and empty them of everything that clouds your ability to see your own truth. Everything that makes you unhappy.”

Pocket of Sunshine

“But how will I know what I am looking for?” I ask, somewhat bewildered.

“You will know it when you feel it.” She says, again with a confidence that creates a longing in me for my own. “It’s really quite simple when you consider the thoughts, ideas, experiences, people, places and anything else that makes you unhappy, miserable, sad, angry, devalued, diminished, distraught and all other manner of negative emotion. These are the things that need to be explored; that need to be made peace with so you can release them and make room for something new and more life affirming.”

“Like what?” I ask.

She turns to me and smiles.

“Make peace with yourself and you make peace with the world. You promote peace around you, Joe. Everything that makes you truly happy; that brings you such joy you can’t wait to share it with everyone; that causes your heart to heal and overflow with love. When you no longer feel the desire to express yourself through expletives or defend yourself all the time; when there is no need for attention at any price. The price of your dignity; your self-worth; your Self.”

She ponders for a moment.

“Where there is hatred, Joe, there can never be peace. If it is not peace you feel inside, what is it? You must decide your fate ~ to deteriorate in the face of hatred or grow in the heart of peace.”

Perhaps it’s just where I am in my life right now but for some reason this is making sense. I am middle-aged and exhausted in the wake of my reactionary existence.

I see how my life has been misguided, and possibly sabotaged, by the belief systems of people who knew no better than to influence me with their own dysfunction.

I’m beginning to see that what there is, what I have experienced, is not all.

I did not understand this before, but I understand it now.

And when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

~*~

Hmmmm … interesting where the free writing process will take us.

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

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Emptiness ~ The Dark Unknown

Emptiness
Source: WordPress

Emptiness.

A void waiting to be filled.

Fill it wisely, and be well.

~*~

A path familiar walked for too long a time.

Riddled with old perceptions and prejudices;

Delusions, illusions and self-sabotage.

It was all I knew; all I understood of life

Until one day I finally

Asked:

“Is this all there is?”

*

A wall to the right guides me forward;

To the left, escape.

But to escape is to runaway;

To avoid a truth which

Looks, oh dear, so dark.

Yet, I must know the dark secrets

Of this truth. My truth.

Surely it is more than the emptiness

I feel that suffocates.

I must know. I must make

The uncertain live and die in me so

I might live again.

*

All is uncertain. Even escape drags us

Into uncertainty. An uncertainty

Often darker than our own.

*

At the threshold I stand. Smile.

What is more intrepid; more adventurous;

More exciting than to advance into our own

Mystery with open heart and mind, and a

Desire to plumb the depths of our truth?

To feel what is real. To negotiate the joy;

The terror; the fear; the relief;

The pain; the sorrow; the love; the hate;

The sadness; the history of the ages that

Makes us who and why we are?

In the process, discovering a new self-respect,

A new joy in our being because we have found

What lies beyond the lies that have

Shaped how we perceive our world?

Trade that powerful roller coaster

Of healing for an escape

On a delusional fairground ride into the

Utter depths of another’s darkness?

I think not.

So, with courage and a will to seek

My truth boldly I step into that immeasurable

Abyss. The place from which I would

Run screaming for lack

Of understanding.

Stop. Breathe deeply. Feel its clamp around

My chest. Feel it mess with my mind.

My eyes blinded search for light; for

Relief; for the familiar.

Panic. Fear. The light!

Where is the light? The walls have

Closed in. For a moment I

Suffocate in that

Dark unknown. It cannot

Be escaped. It must be faced; met;

Addressed; wrestled with; felt.

Feeling? What is that? I who have

Numbed my way through life must

Suddenly feel? It is too much; it is

Too much; it is too much; it is …

Light!

Blinding darkness in a twinkling to

Blinding light. With one hand I

Shield my eyes while the other is

Gently held.

“Be at peace, dear one, the truth

Is not so hard when faced together.”

I catch my breath. My body floods

With awareness, or at least the

Desire for it. I am not alone in this

Dark place when the Good Heart

Upon it shines.

“See.

Acknowledge.

Understand.

Accept.

Release!

Be free.”

To be free of my past I must

Face it. And not just

My past, but the lives of those

Who came before and coloured

My world with all their

Grief and prejudices and

Suffering and pain.

Together the Good Heart and I

Walk this straight

And narrow way.

The gentle hand my guide;

The gentle voice my comfort.

No judgment.

My truth revealed in a loving

Way, leaving me weeping for

Joy at my survival of the

Slings and arrows life has

Thrown my way. Somehow

I made it here. And somehow,

Henceforth, I shall thrive.

Fill the emptiness created by a

Self-imposed, protective vacuum that

Had almost sucked the life

Right out of me. Fill it with love;

With beauty; with peace.

I am more than the misery of that

Dark unknown. My truth buried

Behind the heavy shroud of

Others’ suffering; imposed upon my

Will and accepted as my own as

I knew no better.

My truth reveals my authenticity.

Yet, I would never have heard its voice

Without first stepping boldly into that

Dark unknown.

~*~

This is written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words. It started as a free writing exercise, calling upon the memory of a dream I had a couple of weeks ago, an experience in a restaurant where you eat in the dark and years of therapy.

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

More Emptiness from the 1,000 Word Challenge

Memoirs of an Unremarkable Man

Louie Behogan

Lita Doolan

Wit’s End

Weekly Writing Challenge: Cliffhanger!

~*~

This is an excerpt from a novel I started writing many years ago. It’s been parked in a file folder on my computer for a while and when this challenge came up I thought I’d take another look at this scene and give it a re-write … without the ending, of course. it’s virtually a new piece. It could¬†still¬†use some work, but if I don’t post it now I’ll miss the challenge deadline … and perhaps never post it.

Enjoy!

~*~

It’s the late afternoon of a mid-August day. A storm has broken inside of me I cannot quell. I am as a demon possessed, galloping my poor horse, Pandora, at breakneck speed up the country lane to our doom. Riding her too hard and too fast for the extraordinarily hot and humid conditions. Yet, I am unaware; irrational; lost to some evil spell.

When we reach Iron Will Hill I yank Pandora to a stop. The mare steps nervously as I raise a shaking hand and brush the sweat from my brow. It’s only then I am reminded of the throbbing ache in my sprained left ankle, an injury sustained much earlier in the day.

I shouldn’t be riding. Shouldn’t be out in this heat. Shouldn’t be pressing my mare beyond her endurance. But I can’t help myself. I’m at wit’s end.

Ignoring my ankle, I shelter my eyes from the sun disappearing in a blaze of glory behind thickening summer storm clouds. I survey the field.¬†It takes an iron will to negotiate most of these jumps, but today I’m not even thinking about that. All I feel is this overwhelming impulse to over-correct.

I’ve had enough. Enough of coach‚Äôs lack of confidence in me; enough of the constant berating and verbal abuse; enough of the punishing hours of training in the mid-summer heat for a championship for which, frankly, I simply no longer give a damn. The joy of competition has been beaten out of me ~ mind, body and spirit.

The trouble is I can’t seem to let it go. My coach, Joanne, is the only person who doesn’t get me. Even though we’ve worked together for several years she still insists on treating me as a commodity in her perpetual narcissistic drama. There’s no warmth. No humanity.

This is something I’ve only recently realized, and with this the realization that I have to leave. And,¬†I am going to get out of here. I am. Now that I understand what’s going on here, I have to. Still, I feel so betrayed.

I’ve given so much of my own time to her cause. The accolades were never about me, only about building her training profile and business. And I’m tired of it. I’m done.¬†I can feel myself toppling over the edge of a precarious emotional cliff. A cliff upon which I’ve been teetering for some time.

I’m in free-fall.

And as I fall I am, for some inexplicable reason, even more determined to prove myself to that evil woman.

‚ÄúI‚Äôll bloody show you, Joanne Milthorpe, even if it kills me …‚ÄĚ I yell to the winds as I see, in the distance, Joanne’s pick-up truck roaring toward us up the dusty lane. “Too little, too late, you bitch!!”

I force Pandora into a trot, on the look out for our first fence. There’s a thunderstorm rolling in from the southwest. It’ll be here soon, but we’ll be done before then. I’m no fool.

This cross-country course is a favourite spot to ride in the summer months. We do a lot of hill work up here. It’s so beautiful with its long views over rolling countryside.

The course was designed by an Olympic event rider Joanne spared no expense to employ. Each meticulously landscaped natural jump offers two degrees of difficulty, and every week, during the eventing season, landscapers come to mow grass, trim shrubs and plant flowers. It’s another one of Joanne‚Äôs expensive obsessions. Another reason she depends on me to drum up business by winning in the show ring.

Against the backdrop of a darkening sky, the field takes on an ethereal quality. My heart thumps loudly in my chest. A tympanic crash of distant thunder underscores the adrenalin pulsing wildly through my veins. Pandora prances restlessly beneath me. I can feel the swell of her body rise and fall in rhythm with her laboured breath; feel the heat from her sweaty steel grey body.

And then she screams. A piercing, penetrating scream that slices through the thick, pre-storm silence. A plea for the safety of the herd. And even though we are a good distance ¬†from the stable yard Jezebel, Pandora’s anxious paddock mate, trumpets a frantic response. Pandora rears.

‚ÄúStop it, you cow!‚ÄĚ I wail, and dig my spurs into her quivering sides.

As we canter down the hill, I hear the storm rumbling ominously, getting closer. A crack of lightning flashes across the sickly green sky, punctuated by the desperate siren call of the approaching pick-up‚Äôs horn. But I’m in the zone. Nothing can change my mind or distract me from our run to the Log Jam.

‚ÄúThree-two-one ~ jump!‚ÄĚ

I always count the last three strides. Force of habit, I suppose. As I give Pandora a dig with my heels she thrusts herself into the air, tucking those well-practiced front legs under her chin in a leap that might have cleared a fence twice the size.

‚ÄúWh ‚Ķ hoo!‚ÄĚ

Oh, god, that feels good.

We round a turn to the left and head toward  a big, boxy, jump Joanne calls the Chicken Coop. Pandora stumbles. I set her right; we rebalance and keep going.

I’m already beginning to feel better. There’s nothing like a natural high to chase the blues away.

As we approach the Coop I yell in Pandora’s ear. She twitches it, confused.

‚ÄúC‚Äômon, girl, let‚Äôs get this thing. … Three-two-one ~ jump!‚ÄĚ

Again, Pandora’s powerful hind legs push the ground away, easily clearing the coop. The warm breath of the breeze against my face is such a thrill. Finally, I can breathe again.

We could stop now, but the momentum has grabbed me and I want just one more jump.

As we canter further down the slope to Basil‚Äôs Brush, Pandora stumbles hard enough to give me a bit of whip lash. It’s a wake-up call. I realize we must stop, but no matter how hard I pull on the reins there’s no response. She has the bit between her teeth and now all I can do is go with it.

So I do.

“C‚Äômon, mare, we‚Äôre almost there. … Three-two-one ‚Ķ!‚ÄĚ

I feel push, but no propulsion. Pandora has given it all she’s got but it’s not enough. I can feel her stagger in the air, her front feet dropping. I hear the gut wrenching sound of a front hoof knocking the solid rail hidden just below the top of the brush. It’s not a hard knock, but it proves unbalancing for my already exhausted horse.

Instinctively I grab for Pandora‚Äôs mane to rebalance. But, it’s no use. My normally sure-footed, beautiful mare, with barely enough strength to right herself let alone compensate for my shifting load on her back, wavers and mis-steps as she touches down.

To be continued …

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy ūüôā

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

~*~

More Cliffhangers!

Weekly Writing Challenge ‚ÄėCliffhanger‚Äô: Young Silence | Thoughts of an INFP
Showdown ‚Äď Part Two | Perceptive Pot Clueless Kettle
Pale Blue Warning ‚Äď Short Story Part One | FortyOneTeen
In The Middle of The Night (Part 1) | Ornella’s Two Cents
Weekly Writing Challenge: Cliffhanger | thejimmieG
Weekly Writing Challenge: Cliffhanger Part 2 | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)
Walking Home In The Dark | Polymathically
Hidden Word poem ANSWER | writemybrainsout
Orion 83 ‚Äď Part 4 ‚Äď The Light | L5GN
You can‚Äôt make this stuff up! ‚Äď Part 1 | Magnet for Foolishness¬ģ
The Colours of a Day | A Room of One’s Own
Perspective from the 33rd Floor: Part One | Don’t Jerk Off To This!
The One with the Goddess Pele, Part 2 | Jackie Cangro
Mother, part 2 | Who Would Have Guessed
Mother, part 1 | Who Would Have Guessed
her call | Little Cubicle
Weekly Writing Challenge: Cliffhanger! (part 2) | In my world
12 1/2 Clichés I Want My Kids to Live By | The Human Rights Warrior
The Job Interview at a Starbucks | The Libra Chronicles
Close Encounters: Part 2 | MightWar
A Visit to the Doctor’s Office (Part 2) | Just Life

Traces of Them; Traces of Me

Traces of Them

We are admonished by some that history belongs in the past. And perhaps it does.

I’m here to offer, however, that we ignore history at our peril, especially as it pertains to our family. The people who preceded us were shaped by world events and their experiences. How they were shaped, shapes us.

I believe that if we are to be able to move forward positively with our lives, and leave history behind, it is important to examine the past, how it effects us, and make peace with it.

Allow me to demonstrate, albeit scratching the surface, with my own experience.

~*~

I am well acquainted with my family history.

After a considerable amount of time spent in my early 20s researching through old family documents, records libraries and history books (in the days before the Internet, I might add), and with the help of professional genealogists, I managed to trace branches of my family tree back to the Middle Ages. Perhaps, more importantly, I began to see the ancestral story that is the backdrop to my life and learn to appreciate, for good or ill, its impact on me.

I began to recognize the sources of prejudice and the pain, of strength and courage. Began to see the talents and traits that had passed down the generations and landed on my doorstep. Ideas, beliefs and emotions that had been programmed into me and that I could examine, accept (or reject) according to my own sense of truth.

This is the story in a nutshell. You’ll likely notice some recurring themes:

My illustrious German and English ancestors settled in New England in the late 1600s, and made lives as magistrates, farmers and politicians. At the time of the American Revolution my branch of the family tree sided with the British (United Empire Loyalist¬†(UEL)) and fought with the notorious¬†Butler’s Rangers. With all their lands and possessions confiscated the remaining family walked from Poughkeepsie, NY, to Niagara, Ontario (Upper Canada at the time) to start a new life. My direct line ancestor was the first white settler in Middlesex County¬†(the area now known as London).

Irish PastoralA couple of generations down the road this family linked up with my Irish ancestors who, in the 1850s, fled the effects of the great potato famine to start a new life as farmers in southern Ontario. My Irish great, great grandmother is purported to have been mad (which looks about right when I consult the old photo in the family archives). Her mental instability left its mark on my great grandfather who grew up to be a rather unpleasant man. The upside ~ being Irish, of course, music was part of the way of life so wherever they settled they became a part of the local music scene. In northern Michigan, where they were farmers for a time, they proudly played in the local brass bands.

A generation or two later,¬†in the late 1800s,¬†the family left Michigan and trekked west across the northern US, helping to build the Great Northern Railway¬†along the way. Eventually they settled in Montana, where the railroad ended, and successfully ran a railroad cafe. My great aunt Margaret, an artist in her own right, studied painting with iconic Western painter, Charles Russell. (A little name dropping never hurts. ūüėČ ) Her natural fort√©, however, was apple sculpture.

Around 1920 my great grandparents headed north to Canada, settling in southern Alberta. My great grandfather owned a barber shop and pool hall in town as well as farmed. They did well for a few years before losing everything during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl of the 30s. This took a terrible emotional and financial toll from which they, and their three teenage sons, including my grandfather, never fully recovered. They, like many other families in the area, moved hundreds of miles to northern Alberta to clear more land and start again. Music was the main social outlet and a positive focal point in a home filled with strife. My grandfather, a charismatic (mad) drifter, could play any instrument you handed him.

Alberta PrairieIn the early 1920s my genteel Scottish great grandparents, well into middle age, left their comfortable life in Glasgow, Scotland, to give their eight children a chance at a better life in Canada. (My great grandfather was a retired soldier in the Black Watch.) With a 100-acre land grant from the Canadian government at their disposal they made the uncomfortable journey by boat across the pond and then by train across the prairies to begin a new life as homesteaders in northern Alberta. (I am told that my great grandmother once confessed that if she’d known how hard the life was going to be she would have stayed in Scotland.)

It was a rude awakening from Old World charm to New World insanity ~ clearing fields, building barns and log homes, battling hungry mosquitoes in the summer and enduring long and fiercely cold winters. It was a difficult life that tested the family in many ways. My grandmother, an independent spirit and therefore considered the “black sheep” of the family, adored her horse and sang like a bird. She married the charismatic (mad) musician of Irish descent and endured 27 years of emotional abuse before leaving him and striking out to successfully rebuild her own life. It was at this time she discovered her talent for oil painting. (Theirs is a compelling story that I started to put in a novel some time ago. I might finish it one day.)

They had one daughter, my mother, who excelled as a singer and miraculously found her place on the international operatic stage based in London, England, which is where I grew up. You’d have to know her parents’ story to understand why it was such a miracle she had this career. I wish she’d write a memoir.

My Hungarian roots were planted in southern Alberta in the 1920s. Peasant stock seeking a new life in a new land. Hardworking but dysfunctional. My nagymama was not allowed to learn English. I recall, however (and I only saw her twice when I was a little girl) she had a lovely productive garden, was a wonderful cook and created the most beautiful lace work. Still, like my other grandmother, hers was a troubled marriage. Nagypapa was a troubled soul. My father ran away from home when he was 14. He became writer; a musician; jack of all trades and master of none. A deadbeat dad. (Though I doubt he’d ever see it that way. If he ever disputes me on this I’ll be happy to engage.)

~*~

Again, this is the tip of the iceberg but, perhaps, you notice the general themes: a lot of starting over; a lot of emotional and financial hardship. Good, hardworking, industrious people with their share of trials and tribulations. People of courage, strength and character. Music, the panacea; the source of joy, of laughter and relief.

Traces of Me

And here I am ~ a veritable melting pot of all of this, plus everything I brought to the world, plus all the things I’ve experienced since I was born.

The marvellous thing is that understanding my family’s story has helped me to understand myself.

Dance Like No One's Watching
Dance Like No One’s Watching by Dorothy Chiotti

Coming from a long line of musicians, artists and writers has been a great blessing. I have sung in one of the world’s great symphonic choirs. Performed in my own vocal group and recorded three CDs. I have been a commissioned animal portrait artist and produced a number of veil paintings. I have written all my life and presently pour my creative focus into the writer’s path.

I have a passion for the land because it is in my blood. We were never city people. My passion for horses rises from this love of the land.

Several years ago, while I was going through divorce, I had an intense dream about my ancestors and awoke in the early morning to write a 20-page journal entry about family history. In the process I realized my purpose ~ to stop the pain. To give myself a chance of a new life unencumbered by the weight of the past. In the ensuing years I have worked tirelessly to make this happen.

As I have no children (my brother and I are the last twigs on this particular branch of our family tree) my focus must be to blossom to my full potential while reclaiming my right to thrive. To go out in a blaze of glory, honouring my place in the world while remembering those who came before and made my journey on the planet possible, is my sincere desire.

Me and BearI have worked extremely hard over the past several years to release the past, so the traces of me that live on in the lives of those I influence are positive, uplifting, meaningful and joyful.

My own journey of moving on and rebuilding a life is not, perhaps, the arduous geographic and physical challenge of my ancestors. Nevertheless it tests my mettle and proves my character, and it is my choice to reclaim the triumph of spirit demonstrated by generations past who lead me by their example.

My mother and late grandmother, each in their own way, escaped emotional tyranny to rebuild their lives on their terms. They are my inspiration as I continue to rebuild my life and endeavour to inspire and move, through art, music and the written word.

Traces of me leaving traces of inspiration in others.

At least, that is my wish.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Other Traces

WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE: FADING TRACES AND OLD MEMORIES | SERENDIPITY
Traces | Kansa Muse
Breadcrumbs | Master Of Disaster
The Art of War | K beezy is viral
Wet cement | Margaret Rose Stringer
She was a memory | thinkerscap
Traces: DP Challenge | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real
Arrogance Insults My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
The Lavender Flowers | Stories From My Mind
Trace | MindMeld
Lavender and Rain | So This Is Writing?
Like Flowers on a Grave | loveletterstoaghost
Day Twenty-Four: Veteran At Death | Clearing My Voice
it’s veterans day | Musings of a Random Mind

Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music … The Music in Me

Pipes

Music moves me every day. Sometimes in subtle ways; sometimes the emotion of it is almost more than I can hold.

It depends on the day … and on the piece of music.

The Weekly Writing Challenge has asked us to write about being moved by music. This is a challenge for me as much of my life has been moved and shaped by lots of different kinds of music. In this post I can only touch on a few things.

I love how music lives in us forever

As I negotiate the middle years it amazes me how the memory of a moment from my past, and all the feelings that go with it, can be triggered by a simple melody and a few memorable words.

I don’t understand the science behind hit. All I know is that the music (as well as books, movies, etc.) we absorb lives with us forever. It is a powerful emotive force that can build up or, tear down. Like all living things it has its good, bad and ugly. It is why I am so careful about what I tune into. These vibrations colour my life forever.

Lately, I’m finding myself downloading from iTunes songs I’ve heard on the 70s satellite radio channel. “Oh, I remember that song!” And I sing along as if no time has passed, the words and vocal nuance as alive in me today as they were 35 years ago. I tuck the tune in the forefront of my memory band for replay whenever the spirit moves. I am 15 again.

1977 seems to be a key year. Hotel California (The Eagles); Dance with Me (Orleans); Reminiscing (Little River Band) and, of course, many, many more. Their music was a panacea for me at a difficult time. I don’t focus on the angst. I focus on the melodic turn; the harmonic counterpoint; the catchy words, and smile.

Though I loved the popular songs of the day, I was raised in a home glowing with classical music. All through my formative years, my mother was a soprano on the international stage, with a base¬†at the English National Opera¬†in London’s West End. Opera was the music culture I grew up in. Rock was my rebellion.

I made my own operatic debut at the tender age of five in the children’s chorus of the Canadian Opera Company’s 1967 production of Harry Somer’s¬†Louis Riel. I might have had a music career of my own were it not for a series of unfortunate events that quickly followed, including my parents’ divorce and our move to London. Mine was not a happy childhood.

I was a child lost in shadows.

Later in life, however, I found my own venues for musical expression.

I’ve always loved music that begged me to go fishing

In the rock genre Genesis, Pink Floyd, and the Eagles provided lots of opportunity to dig deep for the incidental lines, or hum along with a rhythmic bass. I loved singing along with the Eagles’ harmonies. I’ve always loved the harmonic line.

I loved the blending of voices creating layered depths of beautiful uplifting sound. My dream was to sing in a large choral ensemble.

I started in church choirs. I had some training (grade V piano and some theory), but it was my natural musicality that always saw me through. Though I can read music I’m terrible with the numbers behind it all. Math was never my strong suit, so I learned a lot by feel.¬†After all these years I still don’t get how a time signature works.¬†I’m a feeling singer. I can’t explain it.

Still, at the age of ¬†27, and after years of slogging it out in church choirs, I finally had my chance to audition for a large choral ensemble.¬†The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Canada’s premier large choral ensemble, was looking for singers to join its ranks.

I’d done few auditions in my life. Growing up in a shadow makes it painful to step into the light. But after humming and hawing for a couple of days I finally concluded “If not now, when?” Did I really want to live to regret a step not taken just because I was afraid of it? I didn’t want to look back 10 years later and wonder “What if?”

So, with some coaching from my mother I prepared the set soprano audition piece ¬†(Rejoice Greatly from Handel’s Messiah) and gave it my best shot.

I’d never acted so confident in my life. Elmer Iseler, the Choir’s conductor at the time, was a larger than life character, yet somehow I felt at ease. Perhaps it was my nothing-to-lose attitude that saw me through. I struggled with the sight reading test (never my strong suit); nailed the ear tests and delivered the aria with relative confidence. Even if ¬†I received a rejection letter six weeks later I at least had given myself the thrill of the chase.

The letter arrived. “Congratulations on being welcomed into the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for its 1989/90 season.” Talk about being moved.

I sang in the Choir for 12 years, re-auditioning every year. It was the standard requirement of all returning choristers and it never got any easier. Unless life got in the way everyone wanted to come back for the next season. No one wanted to be released because the conductor didn’t think they had the pipes anymore.

I’ll never forget my first rehearsal

The rehearsal venue at Roy Thomson Hall was filled to capacity with 180 singers all set out in their respective sections ~ Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass. The great curtain of sound descended first with the singing of Godfrey Ridout’s thrilling arrangement of O Canada, followed in short order by the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s¬†Messiah ~ and this was just the warm-up.

If the purpose of starting with these two iconic pieces was to blow the new-comers away, it succeeded. It was overwhelming to the point of tears. There I was, nestled in the soprano section with the altos singing from across the room, and the basses and tenors booming beside me. A vast, warm melange of vocal harmony enveloped me.

Pure magic.

With each rehearsal I found myself more enthralled. That I should be part of such an experience was incredible to me. I recall all the happy, studious, joyous faces eager to make beautiful music together. One hundred and eighty men and women from various walks of life, of various political and religious stripes, leaving their differences behind and moving each other, and audiences, through the great choral masterworks. Beautiful, heart warming, rapturous, uplifting, life affirming, glorious music.

The journey to performance was a veritable roller coaster ride. Studious exasperation during difficult passages. (The roller coaster runs in any Bach work come to mind, or anything exposed in a cappella). Relief when we got it right. The scratching of pencil lead across the page as we all made notations ~ lines through edited passages; circles around difficult notes; changes in vocal colour, tempo; switches from one vocal line to another ~ all things designed by the conductor to convey to us, his instrument, the vision he had for a particular work.

Consider Messiah, for instance

During my 12-year tenure with the Choir we worked with many esteemed conductors all of whom had their own interpretation of how Messiah should sound. Large orchestra or chamber orchestra. Up tempo and sprightly, or profoundly slower and stately. We even performed the Mozart version. Choruses were included and excluded according to the considered whim of the conductor.

And then there were the up-stands and the down-sits. One conductor might want us to stand in an appropriate moment several bars ahead of the upbeat of a particular chorus, while another preferred us to rise to the occasion with only notes to spare.

Every season a new set of notes scribbled over the erasure marks of an old set. For many in the Choir, including myself, Messiah was such old hat we welcomed a new conductor’s interpretation just to keep us sharp. (No pun intended.) ūüėČ

I had the same score for 12 years and sang the work in more than 60 performances. When I left the Choir and returned my score to the librarian it was like parting with an old friend.

Universal language

Music is, of course, a universal language that speaks to us all. One of the great challenges of performing the great masterworks is singing in a variety of languages.

It is a privilege, I feel, to experience the beauty of language through music. Even the English language takes on a delicious flavour when peppered with notes in a choral feast.

I loved singing in Latin. It’s such a lyrical language and wraps around the notes so easily. The requiem masses were mostly in Latin. Among my favourites are the requiems of Mozart, Verdi and Faur√©.¬†Brahms’ gorgeous requiem is in German.

Other languages we tackled frequently included French, Russian and, occasionally, Czech.

To move our audiences through music and word was an incredible feeling.

Perhaps some of the most memorable moments occurred when we performed¬†a capella. Keeping such a large choir tuned while performing without instrumental support is no mean feat. It’s incredibly stressful, in fact. However, it’s also magical. The washes of vocal sound so potent; so powerful that sometimes it was all I could do to stay focused on the music and not trip in a puddle of rapturous emotion.

Among my favourites: The Rachmaninov Vespers particularly the Ave Maria; Henry Purcell’s Hear My Prayer, O Lord; C.V Stanford’s Beati Quorum Via, and Morten Lauridsen’s divine O Magnum Mysterium. Listening to these lovely pieces makes me so wistful for my choral days.

I miss singing this beautiful music, but it’s not where my life is right now. So, I allow it to reach me through listening, and that must be enough.

To close, I’ll leave you with The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir in rehearsal under the direction of their current conductor, Noel Edison, singing Eric Whitacre’s divine¬†Lux Aurumque¬†a piece, regrettably, I never had a chance to sing.

I know classical music, or even choral music, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it lives on in my heart and continues to colour my life in so many beautiful and uplifting ways. It will continue to do so until my days are done.

If you have read this through to the end, thank you. I have had fun reliving some music moments that have moved me. Now you might have a sense of how music has shaped my life. And this isn’t even the half of it … ūüėČ

If you have listened to any of the links I’ve furnished here, please comment on how they might have moved you.

Thank you for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Others Moved by Music

  1. Return To Planet Claire | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man
  2. When You Need to Drown Out The Noise | My Days In A Song
  3. Drown it Out In A Good Tune | My Days In A Song
  4. Moved by Music ¬Ľ Kryson’s Kreations
  5. How the music sounds: Then and Now (With a nod to The Roches). | Jaye’s Brain
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  8. What a Wonderful World | The Crone’s Apprentice
  9. 1989 | Ramblings of a Creative Mind
  10. Music, Inducing Words | tuckedintoacorner
  11. Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music | Writing Canvas
  12. Songs of Innocence and Experience* | Menomama3’s Blog
  13. Music‚Ķand a New Adventure | Lori’s Life and Other Stuff
  14. Chasing Down My Memory Lane | Your Smile is Priceless
  15. My love will fly to you each night… Godspeed (Sweet Dreams) | betweenfearandlove
  16. Weekly Writing Challenge: Moved by Music | Nola Roots, Texas Heart
  17. Addicted To Love | Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This
  18. Music as a Medium for Communication | melodymo
  19. Discovering Serenity with Gheorghe Zamfir‚Äôs ‚ÄúThe Lonely Shepherd‚ÄĚ | SIM | ANTICS
  20. Bead of Jade | Duo Tell