On Blooming Late, again…gifts and gratitudes

Blooming Lateoutside again 003

wish              I wish                                                    seek

life learners                  start again                      yes
Late                 gratitude             not too late                           finding
gifts                           yes                             what if?

      yes              is it possible?        
Why do we have to be grateful for our misfortunes?  Why do we have to look on the bright side when we are down?  Why do we have to say thank you when we feel we aren’t where we should be?  Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?

       I was thinking of the word gift, yesterday.  How it asks nothing from us. 

I think of the times I have failed and had set backs (believe me, there have been many!)and then I think of and all the second chances, third chances, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh chances I have been given.  I think of goals not reached and then I think of open possibilities.

I think of free air to breathe, chocolate to eat, times where I have so many choices that I don’t know what to do.  Even if life hasn’t gone exactly to plan, how could I not say thank you?  How lucky to be able to try and try again.

And there is ice cream, and the northern lights, plays to see, songs to sing, stories to write, places to go, poetry to read, wrongs to right, languages to learn, pictures to draw, mistakes to make, stars to watch, babies to coo over, losses to cry over, chances to start over.

                          It makes one positively giddy!

Blooming Late

We left it late, now we’re up to no good

on this wild, wild night in this wild, wild wood.

Night bird calls and the sun-shy follow

over moon soaked hills to our blackberry hollow.

We floundered for a while in the water-lilied waters

with the moon struck brothers and their lunar-addled daughters.

A night spell is cast through the tempest swept valley

we’re not all here ‘cause we’ve all gone doolally.

Tell me, how would it feel to take fistfuls of flowers

and fling them to the winds where they float for hours

mingling with our minds as we stand stock still

purling round our thoughts in a merry, airy rill?

Don’t doubt our veracity, our lunarian capacity.

Dance a midnight tango through the will-o-wispy fogs

to the sounds of a chorus of the crik-creaky frogs.

We improvise our dinners and our puddings are delectable

our sonnets are impure and our art not quite respectable.

If you find us you can join us but we won’t be where we should

we’ll be dawdling in the deeps of the wild, wild wood.

Still giddy!


Divining Water

Divining Water                                   


         illusion                    perspective  sleep         creamy water           truth  verity

illusion  peace                      calm              look                             listen    
I came upon little black ducks filling the grass in uniformed  diagonals.  All were drinking from the puddles- tsa tsa tsa tsa tsa  it sounded like twenty kittens lapping at milk, which is a very sweet sound, let me tell you.  tsa tsa tsa tsa tsa   When the world is too busy, too much, when everything is passing you by, when you can’t catch up, when you feel overwhelmed, stuck, when you want to say wait wait for me, where is everyone going?  What about me?

 How do you soothe yourself?

I know we all want results, we want to have the tangible, material proof that we are not wasting our time, that we are worthy, that we are going somewhere.


It is stressful when so much of success is based upon illusion for us not to feel like utter failures.

Years ago, the mother of two piano students looked around my music studio and remarked  “you seem to have it all together.”   She was going through a tough time.  I often wondered if I should have told her of my struggles.  Of not having enough money to pay my bills, of all the years where I thought-I am not going to make it financially or emotionally. Of all the close calls where I thought- that’s it- this isn’t going to work, I give up.

But that pull of having to seem successful is so strong.                         illusion

When I was a young actress, I would do anything to avoid people thinking that I wasn’t successful.  There were so many times where I let people think badly of me.  I was doing a play, A Far Country, in Los Angeles and an actor was passing the hat for someone’s birthday present.  Rather than admit that I didn’t have any money,  I said I won’t be at her party so I can’t contribute.   Oh, the look I received.

In my mind, not having money equaled not being successful.                                                            illusion

I was getting married and the cast gave me a present.   This actor gave me a long look as if to say “see, we all contributed to you, aren’t you selfish in refusing to put money in the hat. ” And yet, I still couldn’t admit I had nothing.  Plus, it didn’t help that this actor was particularly handsome and I thought- I can’t think he is handsome I am getting married!   For all my young exuberance, I was shy. If I met him on the street I wouldn’t make eye contact.   Later, he lectured me about being polite enough to say hi back to him, and I burst into tears.  He muttered something like, “you clearly you have issues,” and hurried off.

Issues indeed!                                                                                           illusion

Things only got worse; he received a bad review, I made a feeble joke, and he said, “I don’t appreciate how some people seem to be delighted in my misfortune.”  This couldn’t have been further from the truth,  but somehow,  everything I said was colored by my money=success embarrassment.                                          illusion

I was buying into the notion that being on top, having it all together, being successful was the important thing- not the journey, not the tiny victories along the way, not the intangible accomplishments.   I wanted the  illusion that I was breezy and successful.

One thing I know:  no one gets out of this world alive.

Which is my way of saying, even those that are at the top of their profession have to work hard.  No one gets out unscathed!  Go ahead, by all means hitch your wagon to a shining star, look at what people are doing and emulate your heroes, but don’t make the mistake of thinking- If you do not have what they have, if you don’t have the material accomplishments (the awards, degrees etc.)  that you have failed.


Have you done anything in your life that you were proud of and no one knew about it?  Did you write a poem and it got published in a small press but you think, I am not Mary Oliver, so this poem is worth nothing?  Did you do a play that wasn’t very good but you found that you were convincing in the part?  You weren’t on Broadway so obviously it didn’t count.  Did you do a line drawing that was charming and pleasing to the eye?  It isn’t in a museum so it’s not much of an accomplishment, is it?

~slow down, if only for a while~

outside 008outside 007

These ducks didn’t ask anything of me.  Maybe the occasional breadcrumb.  The gift they give is just being.

Water is particularly soothing to me.  What soothes you? Are you divining for your version of water? Sometimes it is a matter of stopping and looking.  Or listening, or changing the way you are looking at a problem.  Seeing at a new angle can shift your world.

We are so much more than what we do.

blooming late

Blooming late
late Blooming

 night blooming water lilies

    moon flower           evening primrose              night gladiolus

 sun-shy               moon-struck           wandering at twilight

I was listening to the radio years back and heard a man say that he belonged to the Late Bloomer’s Club.  I thought, wow, what a great club! That’s for me!   My father in a rare talk to me, once told me not to worry, that we Woods are all late bloomers.   Late bloomer– I like those words.  They are comforting cream puffs–filled with such frothy, heady possibilities!

Late bloomers are the life learners, the thinkers, the ponderers, the resilient ones.

How wonderful would it be to know exactly who you are, to set out early and know where you are going?    Some of us took the Unfrequented Road by accident.  Some of us tucked our dreams away hoping to come back to them later.

Does the following seem familiar?

You are successful or you are a failure, you are a believer or you are an infidel, you are an A list actor or you are nothing.  You are a famous ballet dancer or you are an amateur, you are a famous opera singer or you are nothing, you are an artist who is recognized or you are a hack, you are a great pianist or you are mediocre.

Do you think we might be too hard on ourselves and each other?

There are miles of places to explore between all those ors.   There are bright-eyed possibilities, grand adventures waiting, unexpected discoveries…

Too late I should have I left it too late I am too old I am too

And yes, sometimes our dreams are not going to come true, at least not in the way we had hoped.  If you are forty and you are learning to play the piano then no, you are not going to be a concert pianist, but how may things are still open to you?    If you are sixty and going for your doctorate in art history, perhaps you won’t get hired by the top universities but maybe you will end up somewhere just meant for you.

When I went back to school I took a huge risk in majoring in music.  I was thirty-four, a year away from the age when all the competitions and contests would be closed to me.  I knew I wouldn’t have the grand opera career that I dearly would have loved.  I had left it too late.  It hasn’t been easy but I don’t regret my decision for a moment.  A life in music is where I am meant to be.  I get to sing art songs and oratorios and get paid for it.  It is a small career but I am happy.

Discover a Forgotten Passion

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier

by Thad Carhart

This book was charming to read.  I love how this man wandered through his Paris neighborhood trying to get the courage to go into a piano shop.  He would stand outside his neighbors doors listening to people rehearsing music.  Finally he got the nerve to knock on his neighbor’s door.  They of course thought he was going to complain but no, he wanted to listen!  The book is about his visiting and re-visiting the piano shop, asking questions and finally buying a piano and taking lessons.

The older I get the more I know that life really is a journey.  Go figure!  If we could just dare to say:

   I am

What could we be? What would we find? Where could we go? Where would we end up?

I am an artist I am learning German I am a writer I am taking tap dancing lessons I am a painter I am a singer I am a dancer I am a composer I am learning French I am a traveler I am I am I am I am I am a poet I am taking piano lessons I am I am I am I am I am

                                                           Aren’t we the lucky ones?

From memory, by heart


poetry by heart~sing by heart~recite by heart~play by


  What if I forget and I am up there and I make a fool 

of myself?

No one likes to feel like a failure or foolish. I was singing a piece by Bach with harpsichord and it happened…
I completely lost where I was in the piece, and oh yes, it was obvious.   I whispered to the accompanist to start at the b section, I smiled and went on. Was I humiliated? Of course! Did I cry afterwards? You bet I did, but sometimes these things happen.

                              ~refuse to let fear rule your life~

For a while I vowed never to sing anything again by heart.  But here is the thing- you will miss much as a performer.  Think about the words: by heart

                                     by heart

by heart by heart by heart by heart by heart by heart

It is in your heart when you know that piece of poetry or that song.  It is in your heart when you have touched it, examined it from many angles.  It is in your heart when you can remember it, take it out of its box, dust it off and look at it fondly.

As an experiment I taught myself to say the alphabet backwards.  I had seen it done on an episode of Nero Wolfe and thought- I could never do that!  But then I thought, why not?
I practiced the backwards alphabet in rhythm and with a melody.   It was quite easy, really.  (It took me about a week, I will never be able to forget it now!)
I divided it like this: ZYXWVUT SRQ P O NML KJIH GFE DCBA say your alphabet everyday, backwards is the only way! (this to twinkle, twinkle little star)


I was doing outdoor theatre for a few summers, and there was an actress who would trip and stutter her way through Shakespeare.

She was able to ad lib in iambic pentameter.  It was most impressive!  She would always remember her lines at the last-minute and we would all release the breath we had been holding.

Added bonus: Memory work is good for the brain, keeping it elastic and supple.

Tips for success: try memorizing using an Italian accent.   Italian is such a musical language.  It has built-in rhythm as well.  It even works with memorizing in a foreign language: I am working on a German piece by Strauss.  Even speaking German in an Italian accent helps.
Use music to remember.  Who could forget the coach on the television show Cheers (If you are out of your 20′s!) teaching Sam geography by singing: Albania, Albania, it borders on the Adriatic– to the tune of Oh When the Saints go Marching in.  Try it with this poem.  You might be surprised how fast you can memorize it.

The spider, dropping down from twig,

Unfolds a plan of her devising,

A thin premeditated rig

To use in rising.

And all that journey down through space

In cool descent and loyal hearted,

She spins a ladder to the place

From where she started.

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do

In spider’s web a truth discerning,

Attach one silken thread to you

For my returning

 by E.B. White

                          ~Do the mechanics first and the heart will follow~

Do the memorizing in accents, rhythms, and silly tunes first. 

It is the same for my piano students

I will frequently say: feel free to play this really ugly and mechanically.

Really feel it in your fingers.

Often we will change the rhythm.

When it is known to us, then we can be musical.

          We can     play              sing play

                       play       play  by             play          sing

        recite    by heart      sing      recite    by       

                    heart            heart                 heart!   


A case for the handwritten

Writing by Hand

How lucky and useful to have hands! A few months ago I was listening to a program on the radio about a man whose family had pressured him to become a doctor.  He hadn’t wanted to follow that path, but in the end he was glad that he did.  He became a doctor who specialized in hands.  He has actually been able to attach a human hand to an amputee with success.  He was marveling at the perfection of the hand.

If I am writing when I am not motivated, out of ideas or just plain stuck, I always write by hand.  The computer is a great tool and what an invention for a writer!    I love the computer when I am on a roll; the rapid fire of words tipping out of your fingers matches the percussive nature of the keyboard.  You are running and no one can stop you.

Where am I going? ???????????What next??????????????????

   But if I am not sure where I am going, sometimes it feels like stuttering.   That is why putting hand to paper calms and soothes.

handwritten letters

Taking time to write

There is a flow from brain to hand that feels different from the staccato finger motion of typing.
Using those small, loopy motions, free associating, trying on words like new clothes, holding them up looking at different angles; with a tilt of the head and a squint of an eye, you are seeing from a different perspective.  It is all in the rhythm, the way of using the muscles in your hands that can’t be duplicated in typing

~Not just for writers~

If you are a fan of the new Sherlock Holmes series and are familiar with his Mind Palace, that is another take on mind mapping (source: How to think like Leonardo da Vinci by Michael J. Gelb)

This is a great tool for sorting out problems and gaining clarity. Choose a topic (key word) then draw branches from your keyword.

Resting on the branches are associations triggered by the keyword.  Let’s say your keyword is MUSIC, some branches could be Musicians-History-Composition-Education.  You are free associating with these words, you are linking knowledge and facts that you already know, or would like to know. 

There will be more branches sprung from the original branches.  Maybe the branches are: Teaching-Literature-Choir.   More branches are connected: perhaps they are: Listening list, Further training.

From all this free associating by hand, maybe you discover that you would like to write music.

This work is more effective if you write things out, because there is not the middleman of the computer keyboard interrupting the flow of ideas as they pour from brain to hand.

 ~I know what to do~I know where I am going~

Further adventures in performing

More stellar moments ************************************

starsWhen I was in college studying music, our teachers often would post quotes and quips on the doors of their offices.  I remember a comic strip that I had once seen pasted to my voice teacher’s door. The singer was tragically clutching the piano as she turns to her accompanist, “whatever happens to me, keep going.”
Here is another: (I have to paraphrase) After the soprano soloist is done singing at rehearsal, the conductor hoists his copious notes which spill over his music stand.
“Here’s the plan,” he says;  “cellos and violins come in early at Measure 10, violins at measure 30 accelerando, flutes at M. 120 ritard, trumpets at 45 play a b flat instead of b, entire orchestra write in a fermata at 330, and at measure 351 everyone pause for two counts.”
The singer says modestly, “and me, maestro, what should I do?”
“Don’t change anything!” he says, wiping sweat from his brow.
This is rather unfair to singers. These days we have to be excellent musicians, we have trained hard and studied for years.
But this is what nerves unchecked can do to one. I have spent my professional life dealing with them. I try to keep them at bay, but they keep traipsing after me like toilet paper stuck to the shoe at a formal function. I have conquered a lot of stage fright and don’t fall to pieces or lose my voice as I did years ago.
But I have my moments.
I was singing Christmas services and on either side of me were two people with perfect pitch.  I remember  thinking, “how unusual, they are both so sharp,  fa la, la, la.  Since when is she so out of tune? Fa,la,la, la, la,” and then my stomach dropped as it began to dawn on me…
Flash back to 30 years earlier at a production of Godspell when Jesus tells his disciple’s,  “one of you will betray me.”   It wasn’t the best production and we hadn’t got the hang of speaking at different intervals as one would in real life. We disciples cry-”Could it be me, Lord? Could it be me, Lord? Could it be me, Lord?
Oh yes, it was me, Lord! I was singing flat. The more I tried to fix it the worse I became.  All reason, along with my hard studied technique flew out the window. I was standing on tip toes, raising my chest;I couldn’t seem to help myself.

Consider this: If something is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.

I love this twist on the saying …if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.  There is a reason our teachers posted those comics, quotes and quips on their doors. Because they knew how hard performing could be, that you have to go through the uncomfortable work, the times when you are not so good, to get to your most polished performance, your most beautiful voice.

Adventures in Performing

Performing when you are an introvert with talent is hard. The first takes much from the second.  

Memories of my stellar moments


Years ago, I did a lot of auditioning for musical theatre in Los Angeles.  Usually they let you sing no more than 16 bars. The game was to get as much out before the inevitable, “Thank you very much, next!” was uttered.  I developed quite a phobia with the anxiety of proving myself before THE WORDS FROM ON HIGH WERE SPOKEN.   I was doomed before I started.

The day hadn’t started out well.  I had a cold sore which I tried to cover with a bit of calamine lotion.  “You have something on your face, dear,”   from the other actress’ didn’t help either.   This was when the musical, Annie, was popular.   I was going to sing, The Sun will come out Tomorrow.  Unfortunately, I overheard the director say, “If one more person sings, The Sun will come out Tomorrow, I will kill myself.”

Had I prepared anything else? I had not.

In my embarrassment, I started out at a faster pace than I meant to; the accompanist sped up in an effort to match me. I sang faster.

Jiminy Inside, my personal Jiminy Cricket was saying “for god’s sake get a hold of yourself.”
I was hurling unhelpful instructions at myself while I sang- tomorrow tomorrow…

Don’t look at the accompanist, it is unprofessional,”   I told myself, in full panic, elbowing the cricket out of my way.  I love you tomorrow…
I was unconsciously going faster and faster, and the accompanist with an alarmed expression, I’m sure, was trying to keep up;   you’re only a day away!

When I was a young actress, all our teachers would say,  “never look at the accompanist when you perform, it’s unprofessional. Horrors!  The word unprofessional,  it was the bane of every young actor.

 Unprofessional unprofessional unprofessional unprofessional

But it was too late. I looked.
I had The Lady of Shalloted myself in the foot.

The Lady of Shalott


…Out flew the web and floated wide-
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

If this reference is too obscure, there is always Orpheus looking back at his wife, Eurydice, as he leads her out of the underworld;  this, after he was expressly warned not to look at her or she would be lost forever.  Or there is Lot’s wife turning into a pile of salt when told, do not look back, I repeat do not look back.

I mean, really, who could resist? I had to look.
Come to think of it, I think this was the audition where I didn’t get the “thank you very much, next!”    I think the director looked at me with undisguised contempt and told me to” have a lovely evening.”

The nerve of the man telling me to have a lovely evening.

On performing:dealing with nerves

 Performing can be  


Race with myself

shattering        scary

quake  shhhhhhhhh

frightenin shake

 quake       scary  


The runner, all pointy knees and sharp elbows is trying to get somewhere important.   In her anxiety she will end up way off course.  If she does find her way it will be with less grace than she would like.  She will be disappointed.  I am speaking in the singular because this picture holds one runner.

Don’t we often get in our own way?

One thing I know: Anxiety in performance will pull you far away from where you want to be. 

Nerves have been my adversary as a performer.  We should be on a first name basis by now,  boisterous bosom buddies, significant others, chums.

               ~Things I have learned along the way~

  1. You can’t trick yourself into not being nervous, you are too smart to fall for it.
  2. You can’t ignore nerves (see 1.)
  3.  Pretend you are someone else (see 1.)
  4. Insist that the audience is not there or worse, in their underwear (try performing with that image!) {see 1.}

Is there a pattern here?  Yes!  You are a smart person.  You recognize danger when you see it.

There is a great deal written on the subject of performance anxiety and most has value.  You can do yoga, exercise, meditate but I think these things have to be supplemental for the fact is, you’re not on the floor anymore doing the yoga poses.   You are not sitting in the dark anymore visualizing the ocean.   You are not running or walking in the fresh air anymore. You have taken yourself to a new environment. You are on stage and it has been at least an hour since you have done these exercises, so you are right back in your nervous state.

                               ~Food for thought~

  1. Think in miniature~ Focus attention to small details. The smaller the better.   One of my best performances was when I was singing about the subject of home.  I could have focused on twenty different things, all that were supported by the text, but I know if my attention goes too wide I can’t concentrate properly.  So I thought of my cat.  Yes, my cat. I glowed the whole way through that song! (I have a plump and winning cat, don’t you know!)
  2. Humor~ Anytime you can use humor it gives you a natural energy boost.   If it is appropriate, the audience will be with you.  I was singing a Cuban Lullaby which had funny names for the baby.  I hammed it up a bit for the baby. (Again, I focused on one thing, the baby)
  3. Don’t forget the music~ know the music’s little details. Does the bass line have a driving pulse?  Maybe that can be the heart beat.  Your heart is beating strongly because you are missing your lover.  He is all that you can think about.  Focus on the bass line, sing, think of that heart beat, sing.  Perhaps the music is fluttering constantly in triplets.  Could that be butterflies?  Are they delightful in their color?  Are they all over the stage?  If this supports the words, see butterflies, sing, feel butterflies, sing.
  4. Keep it honest You can’t feel what you don’t feel.    You will know and so will the audience.  If I needed to be wildly excited in an aria and I thought: I am going to the most wonderful party.  The man I love will be there.   There will be dancing and I will be the most popular one there!   That would be a terrible thing for me to think of; I hate parties, I can’t dance,  I would be hyperventilating because I have nothing to wear and I couldn’t sing a note.  I would be far better off thinking of a wild wind at night, of a thousand, no, a million stars! I would think of the northern lights.  That would be exciting.

Do I still give into my nerves?  Oh my, yes!  It is an ongoing process.  I fail all the time but it is important to me so I keep searching on ways to tell the story in music.

Below is Lang Lang giving a master class to young pianists.  Lang Lang is a perfect example of someone who is always engaged in the music.  He has a gift for imagery and humor.  In fact, he is doing everything I listed all at once!

One thing I know:  Telling a small musical story will pull you  where you want to be And you will pull the audience right along with you.

Performing can be           thrilling

          high    flying                      exhilarating                              exciting              fun

Finding Words

        finding words                           

Box of Words



finding ABC LMNO  G         ABC DEF              words             EF                    ZZ ZZZZ                ABC DEF  GABC DEF  GH         find                   J KLM  N         QWERTY

b                       lo

ZYXWVUT                                  SRQ   P O

NML             KJIH    GFE

     DCB A                                                          

Six and twenty
full and plenty
beginning ending
chosen pending
Bitten, mishandled, mulled over twice
a sideways inversion, a clever device.
Stretched and wretched
proclaimed without proof
withheld and with ease, coy and aloof
invective, profane, with a tight little lip
concocted and clumsy, a tongue with a slip.
A moonstruck malfeasance, a madcap misquote
a gussied up, giddied up, galloping gloat.
Frothy, fitful, fizzy and airy
Malleable, changeable, capricious and merry
Succulent, plump, a sugary glaze
a neat little twist, a Pickwickian phrase.
Fitful, fickle, and prone to fall
Alpha, the One
Omega, the All.

Where would we be without a dictionary?  My favorite dictionary is the hulking Oxford Dictionary.  He is a big lug full of wit and charm.  He is falling apart at the seams and a bit spineless, but he is lovable, all the same.  No one is better at getting to the root of a problem and he is never at a loss for words.  The dictionary on the computer just isn’t the same.  I can’t run my fingers over his papery spine.  He is too cold and proper.  My Oxford is an overgrown, opinionated galoot and he is all mine.

Miss Marple and Intuition

Miss Marple and intuition

I had written on listening in layers in an earlier post.  I had gotten the idea from Michael J. Gelb’s book How to think like Leonardo da Vinci.  I was walking today and thinking about seeing in layers.

Why do some people see more than others?  Why are some people able to anticipate your next move?  The Miss Marples of the world seem to have an uncanny ability to note the trivial but zero in on what is real and important.  What is going on here?  Are we insensitive?  Not as smart?

Intuition- to look, to receive knowledge by direct perception

It isn’t magic.

I think people who are intuitive are good at paying attention.  Information comes our way at alarming rates.  Don’t be so quick to dismiss what you see, smell, or think.  Where did that thought come from?  Do you have a problem you are trying to sort out?  The answer often times is all around you.  It is written on the sign you see as you drive down the highway.  It is in the smell of the freshly baked cookies that remind you of mother.  It is in the look someone gave you that says that they are not your friend.

Granted, Miss Marple is a fictional character, but she will do nicely as an example.  She has solved cases because a tune was moving through her head or she looked into  a shop window and saw a fish with black spots.  But she paid attention and put all the little details together like a puzzle.

20/20 hindsight

is so clear because we saw all the clues and information way back when!

I can’t tell you how often clues slide past my vision and I ignore, deny, and dismiss,  but they always come back, maybe years later, but they do.   I can tell you the exact moment when I should have stopped and questioned the information I was given.

I have had a musical issue that has been plaguing me for years.  This year I consciously decided to really research and pay attention.

  Look look look looklooklookplease look listen smell seek and ye shall find. sense look touch looklook

I have found that I already had the answers to my musical problem but they were in bits and pieces.  This puzzle is being put together at a steady pace.

I think most of us are thoroughly capable of deepening our ability to be more intuitive.  If it is important it is worthy of our time.