Light on the eve of the election

This city, its lights, its light, it’s glowing

Red and blue and green and orange

But tonight, it glows a simple white

My eyes refuse to distinguish any colour tonight

I see all people in every face in my memory.

Somehow, antis and pros and isms and ists coexist, here

Somehow, the iron lady will walk the same street

As a woman who has never shown her face, here

If you squint, you can see their figures melt together

Two women, women similar in beauty.

If you are a lover of the light, it is impossible

To choose a favourite colour.  I wish we could run

A scientific experiment to remove one colour

From pure light.  I’d put money on the beauty

Of the one with the most colours.

 

Don’t get me wrong.  I can see redder than anyone.

I care about politics, about policy, about police and polarities.

On the street we speak and suffer

Lesbians kiss and are kicked out of public establishments

Immigrants are unemployed because of color or name

The tongue each person clings to like a child

To a mother, is threatened by others’ mothers.

These things live in the gut, in experience, in pain and fear.

And that’s just here at home.

Tonight I hold my privilege for just an hour

I am looking over my city, from a high vantage point

I feel love for each human that makes the city so.

The light, the colour behind each person’s eyes takes my breath away.

May I find myself in love with this lit city, just for a moment?

Refusal (poem rated PG-13)

I refuse to admit that I imagined you so different than what you are
That you could not even recognize your own reflection in my eyes.
The statistics were not in my favor. Women are 97% impenetrable
(And penetration is not my strong suit.) A kiss is not cuff, collar, or candle wax.
But my lady, I refuse to admit I did not feel you soften your flesh under my palms
As your horizontal smile branded my imagination from the pillow.
I know you cradle your wounds, your fear that if you open your heart too wide
It might vomit some unmentionable darkness, stain some pristine new love.
Before you wax indignant: I know you cradle your wounds, because
We are both human beings, and that’s what human beings do, with maternal devotion.

I refuse to admit that my passion for you was so sudden and powerful
That you were too weak or indifferent to be able to withstand it.
My lady, you are a tireless pilgrim; which gust of wind made you quit the course?
Perhaps it was the distance, or the poetry; my voice’s sound or primary colors.
I refuse to admit any hope that my presence was engrained enough to leave a wound upon extraction
But if it meant you would cradle me for one more night, I can’t say I’d be able to deny it.

Reflection

just another day another year has passed we plan we plan we fail we plan we succeed we live and live and live we breathe in fear we breathe out awe we breathe in surprise we breathe out anger we breathe in decisiveness we breathe out action buy into quips and quotes scream in frustration cry with exhaustion begin to hope see injustice see beauty hold on hold on hold on and speak of letting go

Questions I asked myself this summer

The Columbia River from Astoria Downtown

I have had an amazing summer.  I travelled from East to West Coast to East coast in the US and Canada, met tons of people, saw sunny days and cloudy days.  I sang alot and played alot of ukulele, and became acquainted with both oceans.  I fell in love with live music of any kind, and learned the power of a smile.  Being back in Montreal makes it all seem so far away, almost like it never happened – but it did, and above all I want to remember the questions that arose from my learning this summer.

  • How do I want to live my every day?  I have always been good at having a dream and working towards it.  I am a good big picture, little details, kind of girl.  But I have not very often given my everyday life any thought, except in regards to how it serves the big picture.  When I was in Astoria for 3 weeks at the beginning of summer, I couchsurfed with the most inspiring houseful of people I have ever encountered.  My ‘couchsurfing’ quickly turned into a pseudo-roommate situation, and I tried to get involved in the Astoria community as much as possible.  I got to volunteer a few hours working in our friend Tallie’s new juice truck at one of Astoria’s farmer’s markets.  I saved a puppet from being run over by the trolley and went skinny-dipping in the Pacific at sunset.  Most days, I woke up to housemate Tim playing the old upright piano in the living room.  There is always something going on in the Rasmussen house, and it was utterly intoxicating.  These are not the kind of people that sit on the internet or watch TV, but they are people of action – they have an idea, and they execute it.  In Astoria, I started to seriously question the nature of the life I have built for myself.  I have a fabulous life to the external eye, but in Astoria I felt truly fulfilled by the everyday goings-on of environmental activism, veganism, music, creativity, and community.  Music is truly only one part of who I am as a human being, and it is time I recognize that I need more.
  • Am I really fulfilled through singing?  Post-Astoria, I travelled to Vancouver with my kindred spirit Tora Klassen and her husband, saw friends, spent time on Wreck Beach, and then made my way over to Winnipeg.  In Winnipeg, I was hit by the big fat doubt – the doubt that I really want to make my life in the classical music industry.  For many years, I have been ‘thinking positively’ and affirming my own ability and desire to execute this difficult lifestyle.  In the past few years, I have been packing so many other things into my life that the doubt became impossible to ignore.  I spent a weekend at my aunt and uncle’s cottage on the Lake of the Woods, and met some more amazing people – many of whom are on the cusp of careers as doctors, engineers, and lawyers.  They were so self-assured, so relaxed about the future, and able to enjoy the moment, that I began to ask myself why I didn’t take advantage of those A+’s in high school physics and pre-calculus and pursue a career in science.  I love physics, I love math, I love helping people, I love having money…. but I also love making music, and I love yoga, and I love… I love… I love so much I could explode.  The question that arose from this summer is a big one, and one I still haven’t answered for myself yet.  But it does lead into the next one…
  • How am I going to make my singing career synchronize with the kind of life I want?  My final sweet stop of the summer was in the little maritime town of St. Andrews-By-The-Sea.  Wendy Nielsen runs an opera workshop there, so we leapt into masterclasses and listening to each other sing.  The seafood there is the absolute best I have ever had.  Snow crab, lobster, mussels, oysters… so much for my veganism!  The first part of the week was a little difficult for me, as I was dealing with missing Astoria as well as the fact that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue on this career path.  But I ‘went with it’ halfheartedly until my pinnacle coaching with Liz Upchurch, who gave me a whole new set of exercises and repertoire and encouraged me to pursue a 5-year plan – “Your voice is the kind that you cook and then you eat and then that’s it,” she said.  And she is right.  Now is the time, and a second degree can always come later.  The little shove I needed to decide to stay with my singing came from a beautiful colleague of mine, Kathleen Morrison, who tweeted simply “Stay the course.”  So, here I am, trying to combine my realization of the kind of everyday life I want with my renewed commitment to my primary art form.  I want good friends; I want true love; I want to be involved in my community; I want to travel; I want enough money to be comfortable; I want artistic freedom; I want a garden.  It is my ultimate dream that all of these might co-exist.

These are difficult questions that I may never find the answers to, but I have so many beautiful people to thank for bringing me to this honest place of admitting that I do not need to be Superwoman, I do not need to be perfect or even give the illusion that I am perfect.  I need to keep being creative, listening to my heart, and doing what really excites me.  That way, I life can only get better from here.

I’ll leave you, readers, with a poem I love by Mary Oliver called ‘Wild Geese’.  Thanks for reading and for your support!

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Music is Essential!

Karl Paulnack:

 

If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevys. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.

 

Lifted from http://amandamichellewhite.wordpress.com/2009/02/21/speech-by-karl-paulnack-of-boston-conservatory/

Letting go of pride and fear: To join or not to join

Photo: Le Devoir

I have been trying not to get too caught up in all of the hype surrounding the protests going on in Montreal.

Especially in its pre-Bill 78 stages, the way that both the student groups and the government were dealing with the situation frustrated me.  I am never against anyone exercising their democratic right to protest, but the unnecessary vandalism, barring of roads and bridges, and aggressive picketing tactics struck me as totally unnecessary; not to mention the terribly condescending attitude of protesters toward those who disagree with their cause.  And even though I did not disagree with the Quebec government’s decision to increase tuition fees, I did not appreciate their stubbornness and unwillingness to be in dialogue with the students from the very beginning.  Personal opinions aside, this was never my battle to fight (as I am not a Quebec citizen), and I was just fed up with the disruption of my everyday routine.  To counter my annoyance, I have had to admit to myself that it is my democratic duty to tolerate others exercising their democratic right… and, who doesn’t love a good ol’ fashioned protest?

My passive-aggressive stance regarding the protests changed in an instant when Bill 78 was passed, and judging from the attendance at Tuesday’s march, it has changed the opinion of many other Montrealers.  Before Bill 78, the protests were like a bee that would buzz around your head and sting when aggravated; now, the protesters have grown into a fighter jet, defending the democratic rights of a province and a nation.  Even though I tell myself that Charest has not *actually made protesting illegal, the activist part of my brain is screaming at me to get out on the streets, don a red square, write letters, and even give myself up to be arrested as an act of defiance against a bill that comes as close as it legally can to removing our right to protest.  The violent behaviour I see on the streets is appalling, but who am I to complain about it when I am not a participant, inciting peace and common sense instead of uncontrolled passionate destruction?

The only thing holding me back from joining the movement with flags waving is, of course, my pride.  Were I to show my face at a protest, I would want to make it very clear that I am there to protest Bill 78 and not the tuition increase.  However, the tuition increase is small stuff compared to Bill 78, and the civil punishment I would experience would be in direct response to my civil disobedience.  The fact is, I am scared of leaving my apartment at dusk because of the risk of inadvertently joining a march.  How am I to instill enough courage in my heart to join the movement willingly and even passionately, to defend our democratic right to protest?  It all comes back to the most difficult thing in life to do, no matter the situation: Let go of pride and fear.  I suppose only time will tell if I will be able to do it.

What makes music beautiful?

We pull apart works of art and reduce them to their smallest particle, as though this will help us represent the whole. This is the age of technology… Nutritionists reduce food to their nutrients; Computers can generate sounds that we categorize as music; Geneticists deconstruct our DNA just to try to reconstruct organs or whole species. Our generation of musicians need an education of reconstruction, not of deconstruction, in which we are already drowning.

Every musician that moves me, without fail, violates some diacritical, dynamic, rhythmic markings. The incompetent black markings have remained on the page, where they belong, and the luminous space of the in between time, the time that really resonates, rises like a sweet-smelling vapor that is inhaled by the musician and exhaled over her audience like a wind. This music is alive, and it is its aliveness that makes it beautiful – not its exact accuracy or the obvious reduction of its parts.