What If?

Prompted by Kellie Elmore’s #Free Write Friday

fwf

What If?

What if? What if? What if?

Looking back from here to there

It is a redundant question.

Looking forward from there to here

A different one altogether.

The past cannot be changed.

I am my past,

The good and bad of it

In a bundle of sorrow

And joy. I cannot

Change what was; but I can

Change how I look at it;

How it effects me.

As for the future?

I shall not should myself

To death, nor shall I

Immerse myself in the

Torment of hoping

For what can

Never be.

But, I shall state

At life’s crossroads

“I won’t look back and

Ask ‘What if?’.”

As long as I follow my

Heart these two

Little words need

Never from

My lips

Trip.

~*~

Recently I made a major decision to move my horse to another barn.

The process of deliberation did include “What if?” but it was more in terms of “I don’t want to be looking back 10 years from now and asking ‘What if?'”

This actually made the decision a lot easier. Who wants to live with regret at an opportunity lost? Certainly not I. I know what that’s like and it’s taken some time for me to let go of that negative way of being.

At this stage of my life making mindful decisions is more important than ever.

Being mindful of my horse’s needs as well as my own was an important part of the decision process. His physical and emotional care are paramount. He’s been well cared for where he is and I have no dispute with it.

Me and BearBut, after nearly eight years for him and 13 years for me of being in the same place, it’s time for a change. Time to see life differently. Time for new perspectives and input and friends.

I am really happy with my choice to move Bear to this new farm. He will be well cared for and I will be one step closer to my dressage dreams. Our world will expand in wonderful ways and I’m really looking forward to it.

I am certain that 10 years from now I will not be looking back and asking “What if?”

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

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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.) 😉

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 FauréBrahms’ 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 … 😉

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 » Kryson’s Kreations
  5. How the music sounds: Then and Now (With a nod to The Roches). | Jaye’s Brain
  6. cooking & culture |
  7. Bill Evans and the Real | cheri grissom
  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…and 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’s “The Lonely Shepherd” | SIM | ANTICS
  20. Bead of Jade | Duo Tell

#FWF Reprise: Childhood Gift … The Arab Tent by Henry Landseer

Free writing is a great exercise and a little more challenging when the memory is involved.

free-write-friday-kellie-elmoreAs mentioned in my last Free Write Friday post on the Childhood Gift, my childhood is very much a blur. During last week’s free writing exercise I couldn’t think of anything to share besides the bear story. Which is fine ~ it’s a nice story. Somehow, though, it left me feeling empty.

The fact is, my mother had given something of great meaning to me when I was a child (besides a roof over our heads, food at the table and a youth steeped in culture), but what it was I just could not recall through the fog of memory while trying to free write on the topic.

That was until a memory jogging discussion with my therapist on Tuesday reminded me of a special gift I still have and that means the world to me.

I’m actually surprised I didn’t think of it as it’s within eyeshot every day.

I don’t recall the exact age I received this thoughtful gift. Maybe nine years old. And I don’t even remember how it was given to me. Perhaps for my birthday.

When my mother toured with the opera company she would frequent antique shops in the various British cities she visited. She would often return home, after a few days away, with easily transportable items she hadn’t been able to resist, like old picture frames and glassware.

I didn’t pay this much mind until one day she presented me with a gold-leaf antique frame bearing a print of “The Arab Tent” by Edwin (Henry) Landseer (1802-1873). The beautiful print she purchased at the gift shop of the The Wallace Collection in London, where the original is on display.

The Arab Tent

This beautiful print of a grey Arabian mare and her bay colt sheltered in an Arab tent took pride of place on my bedroom wall throughout my formative years. Now, despite more life-altering physical moves than I care to remember during which I lost or misplaced many possessions, it somehow graces a wall in our family room.

I guess this print and I were  meant to be together for a lifetime. 🙂

The Arab Tent has become even more meaningful in recent years …

Before Bear arrived in my life I was part-boarding a beautiful grey thoroughbred mare called Murphy. For two years she felt like she was my horse and her owner was happy for me to treat her as such.

MurphyIn the spring of the second year, Murphy became quite ill. We didn’t know what was wrong with her and for several months she was on-again/off-again with work. By autumn she was dropping weight rapidly and a trip to the equine hospital was in order.

She arrived on a Thursday. Within a day and after several tests she was diagnosed with cancer of the peritoneum (lining of the heart). She was dropping weight by the minute. By Saturday she was dead; euthanized. There was no staying the tide of that terrible disease.

Her loss was devastating to me.

I took two weeks off from riding and then, determined to get back in the saddle, started riding school horses again.

Then, about a month later, my future husband suggested it was time to turn my life-long dream of having a horse into reality.

Three months later Bear entered our lives.

Going back to The Arab Tent for a moment, what amazes me is how prophetic this beautiful piece of art seems ~ like a mysterious foreshadowing of what was going to be.

My experience with the grey mare (Murphy) gave birth to the brown colt (Bear).

A kissI get goosebumps just thinking of it.

Now every time I gaze upon The Arab Tent in my family room, I am reminded  of these two beautiful horses that have graced and brought important meaning to my life, and how their coming was, seemingly, pre-destined.

All that remains is for me to view the original of The Arab Tent at The Wallace Collection. I hope that day comes soon.

God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform. I’ve experienced enough of life so far to believe this with my whole heart.

You just never know the profound significance of a simple gift.

I’m so glad I remembered this piece of my life and my mother’s role in it.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

#FWF Free Write Friday: Image Prompt … The Musician

This week Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday prompt is an image.

walmart-man

” … tell me his story.

By the way, his name is John.”

~*~

The Musician

I’m told his name is John, but he actually prefers Jack.

It’s what his mother called him.

Not that he was a mama’s boy, but she had this idea in her head that if John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States could be called Jack, so could her son … John Fitzsimmon Kennedy ~ named after said President but not so close as to be tacky.

Jack had always hated it. He wanted to be his own man.

His mama’d had hopes for him … big hopes. Hopes he did not share. All he wanted, from the time he was 10 years old, was to be a musician. But not just any musician ~ the best darn harmonica player in the country.

His mama had been none too thrilled with this notion when he’d told her at age 17.

“A musician!” she’d wailed as he finally came out of the career closet. He was cradling his precious harmonica in already farm-weathered young hands. His mama about yanked it from him but he held it closer. She glowered. “And when, pray, did you start entertaining this notion when all along your daddy, God rest his soul, and I have had plans for you to go to law school?”

Jack just shrugged.

“Just come to me, mama,” he shrugged again. “Called me, like. … Saved every penny I could to buy this lonely pipe from the pawn shop after I heard an old fella play his at the local fair. … I been practicin’ in secret in the old cow shed down by the river meadow for years.”

His mama was livid.

“Well, you can’t play it no more, you hear? We got big plans for you, your daddy and I, and you ain’t gonna be no musician.”

“A musician!” she repeated, bereft, with one hand on her heart and the back of the other brushing over her brow with dramatic effect. “Jack Fitzsimmon Kennedy you may as well just shoot me.”

Jack rolled his eyes and walked away. He was going to be a musician whether she liked it or not.

Ever since his daddy had died several years before his mama had ruled with an iron fist, feeling she had to be both parents to the fatherless boy. It was a terrible thing, his father having bled to death after getting his hand caught in the thresher. His mama never got over it. Jack’s uncle and a couple of farm hands  now ran the farm, but Jack had no interest. He’d do his chores grudgingly, waiting for the day he turned 18 and he and his harmonica could high-tail it out of there and travel the country with a rockin’ country band.

It was all he wanted.

His mother didn’t live long enough to wallow in her disappointment. Just before he’d turned 18 she slipped on a frozen cow pat hitting the ground with such force that she broke her neck, dying instantly.

Sad as he was he knew it was his ticket to freedom.

Within days of her burial he’d begun the long trek by greyhound bus from Bantry, North Dakota to Nashville, Tennessee. He was going to be lead singer and harmonica player for a band, any band … come hell or high water.

And he was … for The Rambling Wranglers. Travelled all over the country. Played all the big shows and festivals through the prime of adulthood. His heart’s desire.

But somewhere along the way he’d lost his way. The parties, the women, the drugs. On the road so much he became Jack Fitzsimmon (he dropped “Kennedy” cos he was his own man) of no fixed address.

When I saw him last he was unkempt, unshaven and looking lost, perched on a step looking wistfully into the distance, perhaps remembering better days. In protective hands he cradled his precious harmonica. Slippers replaced his cowboy boots; a battered fedora his stetson.

Perhaps his mama and daddy had been right. Perhaps he should have taken their counsel and become a lawyer. He might have made a hay wagon load of money and lived the high life.

But he’d followed his heart. He’d lived his own high life. The bank account may be almost empty, but his heart was completely full. His hope for a brighter future, even at this stage of the game, clutched in his weathered hands.

Jack turned to look at me. His expression neither happy, nor sad.

“I broke my mama’s heart.” He spoke with an absent neutrality. “But she broke mine worse by not believing in me and my dream.”

Jack turned away. He removed his hat and placed it bowl up at this feet, and then he cupped the harmonica to his lips and played the lilting tones of the haunted soul. I placed a token in his hat and left.

I understood him only too well.

~*~

free-write-friday-kellie-elmoreDon’t know where that came from. Edited a little because it was so long and sentences were running on.

Thanks for the challenge, Kellie!

~*~

Herewith an update to The Guarded One as well as the first letter to The Critic.

~*~

Thanks for stopping by …

Be well,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Trust and the Broken Four-Year-Old

~*~

A free writing exercise inspired by a dream …

Trust Bear

Trust and the Broken Four-Year-Old

The light had gone from her eyes by the time she was four. A vacuous wary stare filled the big, dark eyes with an expression of distrust.

“I cannot trust you,” she seemed to say.

Not a word was spoken but I could tell, as she gazed vacantly in my direction, that nothing was registering. It was as if she was looking right through me, her gaze distant; her aspect disengaged.

She would not be hurt again.

At least I could see this was her intent. But, sadly, it was not her truth. For even if she were able to defend herself completely from the predators that prey on such as she, her defences would also seperate her from those whom might help; might love.

But she trusted no one.

What choice had she but to take care of herself the only way she knew ~ like the tortured animal fight back, run, hide ~ anything to stay out of harm’s way.

It does not make her happy.

It doesn’t even keep her safe. For though she might avoid the demons without, the demons within linger, and torment. They are already there ~ already telling her she’s not good enough to be loved; not pretty enough to be adored; not smart enough to be successful; not loud enough to be heard.

The well-meaning voices she doesn’t trust out there cannot quell the dissenting voices she hears in here.

She searches for her truth, but cannot find it cloaked, as it is, in a blanket of carelessly woven lies that have already, at such a tender age, defined her destiny.

The burden of it suffocates her, and yet she has no idea ~ yet ~ that she cannot breathe. Breath means nothing because it is as if she is not living. She exists. She already survives. She bears the weariness of the aged … and she is four.

I can see in her eyes how she longs for release. She longs for something she does not understand; doesn’t know … yet.

She longs to trust someone but doesn’t know where to turn.

She turns to me.

“Can you be trusted?” she seems to ask, silently, vacantly, as if she’s already made up her mind that I cannot.

Will she understand that if I reach to hug her and say “Yes!” that this is truth?

Our truth together?

How long does it take to reason with a broken four-year-old?

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013

Letters to The Guarded One …

Free Spirit

Six weeks or so ago I had a dream.

It remained vivid in my consciousness after I awoke so I wrote it down and shared it later with my therapist.

It occurred to us both, during our discussion, that this dream was introducing to me another aspect of my Self looking for some resolution. This time one of mystery I’ve dubbed The Guarded One.

Click on the image above to connect to The Guarded One.

This series of letters is an ongoing exercise and I will notify you of further updates as they roll out.

A third series, this time addressed to the Critic, is due to begin soon.

Please feel free to spend some time with these letters. Though personal I believe they deal with universal issues to which we can all relate to one degree or another.

Perhaps something you read here will resonate with some lost part of you.

Be well,

Dorothy 🙂

 

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2013