Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Horse, the Woman, and the Girl

Sometimes it seems, when trying to make sense of this experience, this path, this life, that I am chasing the wind, trying to love things that keep changing, trying to rest in constant movement, trying to understand the incomprehensible.

Over time, through the process of finding my self, my true voice, and who I am, I have struggled with understanding who I am. In this struggle, the different sides of me as a singer have developed separate identities. I can call them, now, the Horse, the Woman, and the Girl. And no, I am not developing a beginning-of-the-fourth-decade-of-life sort of schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder. I have simply learned that an artist sometimes needs artistic analogies to grasp the simplest things in life as well as the most complex, like Where does my inspiration come from? What IS this Art I do? Who am I and why?

One of my great teachers, the kind you meet one afternoon and one afternoon only, and yet you know you will remember that afternoon the rest of your life, helped me to identify these 'characters'. He led me through my life, through what at that time, was a mass confusion of feelings, a grey space of desires, and showed me a story, a painting, that, through his questioning, became clear to me through the fog of my emotions. This point of discovery was pivotal in bringing me to where I am at now: close to fully reaching my potential and understanding my identity as an opera singer.

I am so grateful to The Creator for this story, for this picture, for this healing analogy, and with this blog post I would like to give it back to the Universe, for it is my goal as a person and an artist to be as honest and open about who I am as possible.

Part of what we know about a singer we can hear through their voice. I have always been attracted to what I call 'heart singers'. They are the opera singers who, when you stand very near to them whilst listening to them sing, emanate a voice which comes not from the mouth, but literally from the heart. And if your own heart is open to the music they are singing, their voice, perhaps even their own heart, will create a connection, a bridge of sound between them and you. To experience this is to experience heaven: the place where we are all holy and beautiful vessels of light overflowing with love.

But what we do not often hear are the stories of how these singers became such vessels of light.

Perhaps it is egotistical to admit that I would like to be a pioneer. I would like to be a 'heart singer' and I would like to share with the world the way I become one. It requires much introspection, and as I am learning my own heart's language I can interpret much better now to you what my heart has been through in seeking this expression.

But I digress. In some ways I would like to try to interpret the last fifteen years of my life in one fell swoop but I fear that my skills are not yet good enough so I will stick with this one story:

There once was a beautiful black Horse with a white mane and tail who ran with the freedom and joy and wild heart of his ancestors through the fields. No one could tame the stallion. In fact, he was so fast and cunning that many did not even know of his existence. He only showed himself to those people whom he trusted, and who saw him for his true beauty. If anyone came to see him in his wild habitat to comment on his imperfection or came to hunt him for dog food he simply vanished. It was as if he never existed.

One day a young Girl with sad brown eyes who saw many things in the people around her which she did not understand, came to the edge of the field where the beautiful Horse was grazing. He did not disappear. Instead he watched the Girl with one eye as he would watch a brown rabbit hopping along the side of the forest. Indeed she had very similar eyes to the hares that shared his home: wide open, watching, always watching. The Horse understood the Girl. He understood why she watched and watched, why her eyes looked at things so deeply. He understood her silence, and the Horse could tell, when he saw the Girl, that she was thinking about him. She was thinking about how she would love to have the courage to play with the black Horse, and though he was much bigger than she, the Girl was never afraid.

The Horse and the Girl got to know each other slowly. She brought handfuls of rich alfalfa hay to him to leave at the edge of the meadow. He also loved carrots, and when she brought them to him, the Horse would whinny and come to say hello. One day he let the Girl touch him, and soon thereafter, as she turned from one of their 'play dates' to go home, the Horse followed her. Proudly, the Girl brought the Horse home and put the Horse, as she had been taught by her teachers, in a stall for safe keeping. The Horse was happy for a while just to be the Girl's friend. She brought him plenty of alfalfa and carrots and things she thought were good for him, and people came to see him and exclaimed at his beauty.

But soon, as could be predicted, the Horse grew restless and out of control. The rich food the Girl fed him just made him more powerful and want to run faster and further. The stall felt like a prison, and the Horse soon grew so impatient that it kicked and reared and lashed out at the barriers that held it until the stall was a shambles and he was once again free.

The Girl was very sad. She thought that the Horse was angry with her. She thought she had lost her best friend, the one who understood what she was looking for, who could look into her eyes and mirror her own thoughts. Who would nuzzle against her and be still while she cried? Who would listen to her questions and not try to answer them except with a warm snort of air or a crunch of alfalfa in his teeth? Who would be her friend? Who would ever care to know the Girl except the Horse, ever again?

Then one day, a beautiful Woman came to visit the Girl. She had heard from a friend that this Girl had tamed the famous wild and beautiful Horse, the one she had heard about for years, and lost him again. She walked up the dirt road to the Girl's house, strong and beautiful and full of confidence, carrying only a lightweight saddle and some things that looked like ropes. She was dressed like the famous Horse trainer she was known to be. The Girl ran to meet her like she always knew the Woman was going to come, at this time, on this day, to her home. The Girl helped the Woman with her things and invited her in. The Girl was little, and still very sad about losing the Horse, but she was very responsible.

The Girl and the Woman talked and talked for hours, almost as if they were the same person (which they are). The Girl laughed and cried as she told the Woman all of the stories of her trips to the Horse's field. She told the Woman how magical it was to watch him jump and play and run, like he was partying at every moment. The Girl told the Woman how the Horse made her feel free, how watching him was like believing that she could grow up and be a very good and beautiful person, just like the Woman.

Over the hours and hours that the Girl told these stories to the Woman, the Woman grew curious. She asked the Girl to show her where the Horse lived. So they took alfalfa and carrots to the meadow and, because the Woman also had eyes which the Horse knew, he showed himself to them. The Woman caught her breath. This was the Horse she had been looking for her whole life! She had seen and ridden and trained thousands, but no Horse ever felt like her own. She knew that she belonged with the Horse as much as she belonged with the Girl, and so she set out trying to understand him.

It was a disaster at first. The Horse had been severely damaged by the Girl's attempt to tame him. He was very distrusting of closed places, and when he came out to play, the Girl and the Woman could see scars on his legs from his escape from the stall which still hurt him. It pained and shamed the Girl to see that she had done this to the Horse. But the Woman, even though it was harder now to train the Horse after the mistakes the Girl made, never blamed the Girl. She let her cry, she let her get angry, but most of all she let her learn. Even still there were moments when the Woman was getting to know the Horse and things looked very good, that the Girl wanted to invite her friends over to show the Horse off. But the Woman refused, saying 'no, Girl, now is not the time. The Horse is still too afraid, to injured, and if many people come to see him who do not understand him they will judge him unfairly and, because he his still wild at heart, he will disappear again, perhaps this time forever. Horse will have his time to shine. We must be patient.'

So the years went by and the Woman come to visit the Girl and the Horse often. They all got very close and started to trust one another completely. They started to feel that they wanted to always be together. So they went out in search of people to help show them how to speak each other's language. The Girl and the Woman learned Horse so that he would always feel free and not want to disappear. The Woman learned patience and how to listen to the Girl. The Girl learned discipline and how to respect the Woman.

And one day, all three found themselves on a racetrack, ready to test the Horse's true speed and ability. They had trained hard and knew that, with each other's help, they could run a beautiful race. The Girl had helped, as she always did with her calm presence, get the Horse in the starting chute. Because the Horse was still afraid of small dark places, he needed the Girl's soft guiding hands to lead him in. The Woman sat astride the Horse, ready to run the race as they agreed, but the Horse got more and more excited in the small space, and in their panic, the Horse and the Woman forgot about the Girl. It seemed they would never run free, would never run the track with all their hearts, would never show the world what they could do and how beautiful they could be. In the mad protest of the Horse, while the Woman was trying to steady him, she caught a glimpse of the Girl cowering in the back of the chute. It took all of the Woman's courage to reach down an arm, grab the Girls hand, and swing her on to the Horse's back.

The changed weight on his back and the sharp ring of the starting bell happen simultaneously, and the Horse, finally free to be complete and unafraid with his two best friends: the beautiful, strong Woman, and the feeling, observant, quiet Girl, ran his heart out in front of the grandstands. And the crowd roared.

You know everybody thinks we found this broken down horse and fixed him.
But we didn't. He fixed us. Every one of us.
And I guess, in a way, we kind of fixed each other too.

"When a bubble's gone, you don't see it anymore with your eyes. And when an opera is over, you don't hear it anymore with your ears. But you can remember it. You can remember what bubbles look like and what operas sound like and what friends feel like. And you'll always have them with you in your memory."--Mr. Rogers


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