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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How sweetly nature embraces

Running along the Hudson River this morning, for a moment I forgot my feet were hitting the pavement as a rush of wind rustle the leaves of the cherry trees and me- and when once again I was toe to concrete, I wrote these lines in the notes section of my iPhone:

How sweetly nature embraces
The dreamer in breezes
From upon the frothy tides

And not if the dreamer- softly wakening,  remains in bliss less denial

But as mother, god, is kind, sees past illusion

And beyond the trash, scattered, the hollers of a city at night, the wailing of its children at the mess they themselves spark in a delight of self misleading the self in fright.


Blind are we, are you are he are I as her as you as we. Ourselves.

But the dreamer, opening slowly ones eyelids to bathe in streams of song? embraces the extrapolation of "trying our best" and, discarding all the rest

Sees the heart

Of one tiny blue speck in a sea of lights.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Erin buys a watch for the first time in her adult life.


Part Three of
Erin’s Journey

Manhattan School of Music Summer Voice Festival,
New York, Harlem, 2012

I used to always freak out about time. … and I mean, on a grand scale as well as a small scale. With regards to the grand scale, a perfect example is when I graduated from high school. I wished I were already graduating from college. I was so desperate to perform (and more than that, in a second) that I was worried I would be losing precious TIME going to college. I was also dismayed (at that time) that I was not following my true dream to go to NYU, because of fear and, um, well, for a MAN. Of course, looking back, I see how there were so many highways and byways to my life and they all bring-brought me HERE… but tell that to a 17 year old hell bent on being famous and married with three children to the love of her life by the time she’s 24 (because after that… well, I had to win a Tony, Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Pulitzer before age 30. So I could become the head of Unicef and win a Nobel Peace Prize before I was 35.)

I am sorry to say I am woefully behind on, um, well, ALL of those goals. In fact, I don't even hold them as goals any longer! I deny nothing, but I allow MY life to shine as brightly as IT should... not my idea of what it is "sposta" looke like.... I am, therefore, in my opinion, joyfully ahead on my perception of success as an opinion and not to be taken TOO seriously; the idea of “getting somewhere” as an attachment to a future outcome and therefore a distraction from the here now; and loving life- come what may- as a determined and daily practice. Yay me! I win! Another round in the Game of Life, please!

I used to always freak out about time on a small scale, too, though. I was overbooked (sound familiar? I mean, now, I practice slowing down and, sometimes, downright LAZINESS, as an antidote to a premature heart attack, as a respite from addictive behavior, and as a way to live life, damnit) all my life, running from rehearsal to lessons to teaching to class to workout to……


Eventually, about the time I went to massage school and was teaching voice and piano lessons to overwhelmed 9 year olds (why were they overwhelmed? Because they had Violin on Mondays, Piano on Tuesdays, Catechism on Wednesdays, Dance on Thursdays, weekend Tee-Ball and chores. Plus school and homework. Could they take the helmet off their heads while at piano lesson, puhleeease, Miss Erin?) (That’s why.) I began to see how very frightful this way of life was. Of course, ever the rebel, I left that way of life instantly. I decided to rebel and drop out. Now, I’m not saying EVERYTHING I did at that time was healthy, in fact, most of it was decidedly POOR decision making.... but 10 and 11 year old kids were having to watch their cholesterol and I couldn't deal. I wanted them to feel loved, supported… happy. Something I, at that time, desperately was NOT. So I threw away all my wrist watches. I stopped checking the time at every turn. I stopped overbooking myself and started dating a boy who loved watching TV for hours on end. His affliction became my respite.

Last week, I decided I was ready for a watch again. I thought to myself, it would be better than checking my iPhone obsessively for the time, (patterns and cycles sometimes come ‘round again), which invariably led/ leads to me checking Facebook and Twitter and Email and Family Feud and wait, now I’m REALLY gonna be late. Argh! So I went on to QVC (not a commercial, really!) and bought the prettiest, girliest watch I could find… Gold with a pearlized face. I like it.

What has this to do with the Summer Voice Festival?

Anything. Everything.

But I will get to that at the end of this blog. I promise!

SOOOOO many things have been going on in these last three weeks of the Festival. I can barely believe I am halfway through! I won’t talk about everything, but will try to touch upon the highlights…

And speaking of time and highlights, I am thrilled to announce that I held a 360-year old violin a week ago. ;) A friend of a friend is an orchestra conductor and rare and antique instrument dealer. As I have been learning and seeking guidance for my career, and just, desiring to meet some wonderful new people, a dear friend referred me to this man, Richard. He’s a Conductor out of Chicago and a kindred spirit, if I do say so myself. Anyway, he was flying into NYC to deal with a violin and when I met him, he said, “Wanna hold it?” Well, a 4 million dollar violin. Hm. Sure! It’s slightly more dangerous than when Frank the German asked if I wanted to drive his Porsche and I almost did before revealing I didn’t really know how to drive a manual transmission automobile. Ah. Yes. Two seconds later, the violin was back in Richard’s hands. Ha! I don’t blame him a wit, especially as he doesn’t know how clutzy I have been in my history… less clutzy now than ever, but still.

It was a gorgeous violin. I had the great pleasure of admiring its delicacy and beauty as it was played. Then, the family whose home we were in, belonging to a trio of gifted siblings, invited me to a performance of the Salome Orchestra the next evening. A Conductor-less orchestra, they would be playing music of the Jewish Diaspora, featuring selections from various Jewish Composers, including Arthur Foote, Philip Glass, the Gershwins, and one of my favorites, Saint-Saens.

The next evening I donned my pastel splashed Catherine Malandrino wrap dress and faced the drizzle to go to the Shearith Isreal Temple. Glorious marble and gold, this was one of the most beautiful temples I had ever been in. In the section where I was seated, the entire row in front of me kept looking at me. After the concert, the apparent matriarch of the family said, “Now I know how we know you! From Jerusalem.” “Oh,” I said wistfully, “No, that wasn’t me.” “Oh, yes, don’t you remember us?” She asked. “Well, I’m from Los Angeles,” I said. “And…” I was about to say, and I’m not Jewish, nor have I ever been to Jerusalem, but she interrupted me. “No, no, before, when you were in Jerusalem.” “I don’t think it was me,” I said, “But maybe later I’ll remember how we may have met.”

That evening the music was beyond amazing. Each musician was incredible in his or her own right and the taste and beauty with which they played was a great foundation for when the soloists performed like rock stars of the Violin and Viola. They played Summertime… (I smiled inwardly just now as I wrote that because last night I saw the revival of Porgy and Bess on Broadway. I will give a review of the worthy production ina  future blog….) And they played… The Swan.

My mother used to play this song on piano when I was just a wee little girl… from the Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens, among my favorite composers. I remember asking her to play it again and again as I would twirl, imagining myself a ballerina but while wearing my Mary Lou Retton leotard over bright blue tights, with coke-bottle-lensed glasses and funky hair.

This is a song, among a few others, including Moon River and Fields of Gold and Dance me to the Ends of Love and Lujon and the first of the Deux Arabesques by Debussy and Songs my Mother Taught Me, which, upon hearing, renders me instantly in the throes of timelessness…. I could be in a Temple in New York City as easily as I could be in Jerusalem as easily as I could be once again a little girl in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota, with autumn leaves turning golden and orange and the long arms of the Maple Trees in our front yard tapping upon the window bringing a hint of silver, too… I hear this song, and I must stop, for it is always upon hearing that sweet melody that I think of my mother, and her tenderness, and taste eternity.

One of the amazing lessons I have been receiving time and time again during this 6 week period of opportunity is that all the ways I thought my past was a hindrance is, from many other perspectives, a gift. And my past has been coming up again and again, for me to see how lucky and loving life really can be. Of course I’ve had my share of heartache and disappointment and trauma and difficulty, but even much of that- nay, ALL of it- is a gift. Oddly, while I have been here in NYC, I have reconnected with a childhood friend, I have reconnected with my high school boyfriend, and my best friend from childhood’s mother passed away.

And so I reach out for now, because this is it. This is it. People. We can say this and think this and “get it” intellectually all day long, but really? This is it.

Needless to say, it was a sorrow to hear of my friend’s mother passing. She was always very kind to me, this woman who chain-smoked and loved Moonlighting and went back to college while we were kids (just like my mom!) and always included me on family boating trips in Minnesota, Land of Lakes.

And so as I am here, singing my heart out, and loving music, I wish even more deeply to be in honor of all these people in my life, all these wonderful folks I have had the pleasure to meet and spend time with, share sunshine or rain, love and be loved.

Just call me Nature Girl. Haha!

Truly though, the performance of that orchestra was life affirming, as life affirming as the death of a mother figure, as life affirming as a baby’s cry, as life affirming as the four leaf clovers I find everywhere I go.

Why is death life affirming?

There, you answered my opinion for yourself. Thank you. And I love you.

Almost as much as I love singing. I love singers. I love listening to singers- Shirley Bassey covering “I Wanna Know What Love Is” by Foreigner with a brass section, Audra McDonald singing Bess on Broadway, my friends at Manhattan School moving me to tears with lieder and Strauss and Mozart.

Speaking of singing, I am singing in the most wonderful of scenes. I am singing one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed: The Flower Duet from the opera Lakme. I am also singing Jane Eyre from the Musical Theatre version of Jane Eyre, composed by my very own friend Paul Gordon! Life truly is magical and mysterious… that my former roommate Linda would have done PR for that musical, that her sister would have appeared in the Broadway version of it, that I would know Paul, that I would be such a tremendous fan of the Bronte’s and especially that Charlotte, that I would just have been listening to a podcast called “Stuff You May Have Missed in History Class” all about the Brontes…. Well. Allow me to laugh in pure joy and then sing. For life couldn’t be sweeter!

One evening last week, after reconnecting with my childhood friend, Noah… he grew up kitty corner from my back door (I may have mentioned him in previous blogs)…. I went out with a group of his friends (now my friends, or at least acquaintances!) and had a marvelous time. All singers or musicians, it was a talk-shop kinda night. Later, getting off the train at my stop in Harlem, I overheard the most WONDERFUL half of a phone call…

"I mean, if I was to see you, I'd be nervous.... real nervous!.... not like throwing up nervous, but like, you know... love do that to a person... you know.... love overwhelm a person, make a person not his usual self....... you know that's how you know it's love... you know...... love make me real nervous, you see what I mean?...... 'cause if I saw you now, I'd be real nervous." ...... I know precisely what he means. “He” was a very very large man, probably in his 20s, a total Urban Fellah, pants around his knees, baseball cap on sideways, lumbering laboriously down the rain speckled Broadway.

I love what he said. And I am seeing that Harlem is full of love.

So, for a while, I have been getting my nails done every few weeks as part of my “Be Nice to Erin” campaign. I found a place across the street from my house here in Harlem where I can get a mani and pedi for 20 bucks and a smile. No one really speaks English there but I know enough Spanish to kind of catch on and they patiently listen to my halted speech. Anyway, the other day I was in there, getting my nails painted a bright salmon pink, listening to the women chatter gaily away, when suddenly Foreigner came on the radio…. “I’m gonna take a little time… a little time to think things over….” I love love love this song, and not in a sort of tongue in cheek way but outright, the way my hipster friends tease me for loving Celine Dion and the way my classical friends tease me for loving Sarah Brightman. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who loved this song! For as soon as that exalted chorus started, a handful of the women working in the shop all burst out in unison, “I wanna know what love is!!! I want you to show me!” Oh! The concert of birds and Harlem Dominican accents and Foreigner and the sirens and the traffic outside and the fans blowing was almost too much for my heart, I thought I might burst with a strange emotion I couldn’t identify for it was neither happy-ness nor sorrow and yet it was somehow both and yet somehow bigger than all of that combined. It was the joy of being alive, it was the very aliveness of every single person in the nail salon and all of us together as a musical system of love, arranged perfectly by our makers and our hearts, the unlikeliest amalgamation of Vietnamese and Minnesotan and Dominican and African American all contrived on this day at 1:40 pm Eastern Standard Time to sing the even less likely selection of late 70s’ / early 80s rock.

I feel, listening to the birds singing and the children playing outside, that I must get out into that Harlem for a bit before I go see a movie tonight… And, Oh, I have barely begun to scratch the surface of this time here. I have pages and pages of notes to write something brilliant, and instead these 5 word doc pages have meandered like a stream in glacial central Minnesota. I don’t mind though, because as I close, I am listening to a recording of Maria Callas singing an aria I sing, from Saint-Saens’ opera Samson et Dalila… Mon Coeur S’ouvre a ta Voix…. And as she sings about the way the breeze causes the fields of gold to undulate in sensuality, I realize I know now the things I could never have dreamed as a young girl in Minnesota…. I am heartened by the seduction, and by the purity, by the life, by the sorrow. I know things about Dalila, lifetimes and legends away from “Me,” the young woman who writes this, the way she might know a thing or two about Erin…. through heart and inspiration and that eternal timelessness that we can touch through music, through poetry, through making love, through giving birth, through death.

I wanna know what love is. I want you to show me.

We’re all leaning out for love. We will lean that way forever…

Blessings to you and yours. Deep gratitude and whimsy.

Yours truly,