Right now I'm sitting here in my living room which I have made beautiful with things that have found me from around the world, looking out at the trees and watching the cars go by. I have a studio set up in the back room which is a fantastic place to sing on my own and with my courageous and wonderful students. There's not much furniture yet but 'I've got wheels'. That means I have a car, for all my European friends!--or at least they're on loan to me for now so...I am an Oregonian again!
For some artists, this is the biggest nightmare: going back to where they came from. To them, it means defeat. It means giving up, going back to where it's "safe", leaving "civilization" and heading back to the boondocks, certain deterioration, mulchification (my word), or getting lost forever in the undergrowth up in the hills somewhere, never to be seen again. Maybe not all see it so drastically, but one of my acquaintances on Facebook put it so perfectly: when I wrote that I was coming back to Dallas part time, he wrote: "WHY?!?" (his punctuation). I have had similar reactions from other friends and family who were certain for a while that I must be suicidal to make this choice, though recently I have sensed that they are calming down a bit and no longer fear for my health.
My only utterable answer to that WHY?!? up til now has been: "Because I want to." What this person really wants, though, is more than that obvious and slightly insolent answer (-; . Thus I will take up the challenge and dedicate this blog post to answering his question.
Why come back to Dallas?
It all begins with the common questions anyone is asked who has traveled:
"What is it like in Berlin/add your own city or country?"
"Which do you like better? Germany or Oregon?"
"What's different there than here?"
Honestly I have a hard time answering these questions. One time I answered a friend with "It's all the same" and she looked at me with crossed eyes and a dejected look like I had just told her that there is nothing better for her out there than what she's got going for her in Oregon. After that I knew that my answer needed some refinement because it was incomplete.
I have learned invaluable things from traveling. Just last week I returned from a trip to Egypt where I stood in those awe-inspiring temples and tombs, some built 4,000 years ago. I felt the reverence and fear of a people who had so little control over life in their desert environment who prayed to their gods for salvation from all matter of things. Their fear was palpable and understandable, as was the beauty that was a product of that reverential fear. Hieroglyphics painted from natural materials that look like they were painted yesterday, columns made from rock hundreds of tons in weight, stories told of the Afterlife worthy of any depiction of Heaven humanity has ever heard, indeed they were some of the first...I felt myself mirrored in the representations of that ancient peoples' experience.
What I've learned through my travels, the bit of wisdom that I am most grateful for, is that all of these things I've seen and learned about, all of the experiences I've had, are simply an affirmation of what I already know, deep inside of me: I am the product of all of wo/mankind. I hold within me the experiences of all those who came before me, be they slave or queen, woman or man, child or elder.
For a while this realization seemed egotistical to me. This is partly why it was hard to answer the above questions. Though I came to understand that this very truth that I realized was what was making it possible for me to be content where I am in life NOW. It was what made it possible for me to start this wonderful life back in Oregon part time. It was what made me infinitely happy to be who I am, where I am, NOW.
The truth is, we ALL have this innate knowledge right here and now. I can tell you that I even had it when I was a young girl in pigtails running around the horses and goats. It was like my wisdom was a picture painted in the negative, waiting to be brought to the forefront in perfect, vivid color by my own fingers in waking dreams. What we need in life are people who have started painting their vivid pictures to show us we that we can paint our own.
A negative proves the positive:
A black and white painting shows all the shades of possible colors.
Self-doubt only shows us that there is a way to believe.
Believing we are ugly means we could believe we are beautiful.
Dark does not exist but for the absence of Light.
As I was writing on my favorite Forum this morning, "Rebecca's Thought of the Day Number 8" came to me:
"We can only see the shadow of what we have not yet experienced."
It makes complete sense to me that this post would follow that thought. But perhaps "No.8" could use some editing. Perhaps it could read: "We CAN SEE the shadow of what we have not yet experienced." This puts this 'Shadowland' or 'painting in the negative waiting for our vivid touch' in an infinitely more positive context. It acknowledges negativity itself as the presence of positivity. It puts the darkness of hell (which is not believing that our 'picture in the negative' is actually our personalized map to heaven), to rest, simply by saying this map EXISTS. When we acknowledge the absence of something it is already present, even if we are not sure what 'it' is! This is why it is vitally important to be open to everything that comes, especially in the voice studio, whether it be as teacher or as student! 'The It' factor, from my experience, can only be present when someone consciously or unconsciously understands this truth.
But I digress from answering the question! I will have to write more about being 'open' in a later post...
I cannot and will not say that I did not need the travels I've made in order to continue painting my life picture vividly. I cannot tell anyone that they 'should' travel or that they 'must' leave home in order to realize their full potential, to be happy and healthy. Quite frankly I don't think it's any of my business nor is it my calling or duty to tell anyone what they must experience or how. On the same token I do not envy or criticize how anyone else choses to paint their picture any longer. They are following their own Paint-By-Number, if you will, to their own happiness and success, to their own Heaven.
What I CAN tell you is that, in the last month, my four excellent young students in Oregon have blown their own paints over my life's painting with spectacular fireworks of color:
One young man has grasped in three lessons what it took me ten years to understand. This is not a comparison, but rather a celebration! I am deeply honored to work with such a maleable, concentrated, dedicated, and passionate singer. Our work together has spurred me on to want to learn more and varied ways to share all of the things I've learned with him at every possible moment we have in the studio. At the end of his lessons he looks, I would say, pleasantly bewildered yet 'mind-blown' by the new world of Classical Singing he is discovering. It's as if he has discovered a whole new universe of knowledge that will help him become all that he can be. He can leave his lessons remembering the joy that finding and honoring his own True Voice can bring him, with new tools in his pocket to keep exploring his voice on his own. This is a born singer who WILL find ALL of his true voice (right now just a few efficiently produced notes are enough to keep him hooked on the Search) over the course of a couple of short years, and who will be singing it up and down wherever it takes him!
My two young women display such bravery in the studio for their youth that it brings tears to my eyes to think about. They, too, open themselves up to knowledge and grasp what it takes many singers years to understand. It is a joy to see these two very different women exclaim in similar ways: "WOW"---at their OWN successes, their own beautiful emerging voices. When they decide what they want to do with their lives they will be ready to SING if singing is part of it! I am so proud of both of them!
And my youngest student gave me the best gift of all to add lovingly to my life's painting. After we had sung through several pieces with a type of singing she had not yet experienced, she stopped, put her hands on her beautiful blonde head in surprise and said "OHMIGOODNESS I NEVER THOUGHT I COULD EVER DO THAT!"
This, my friends, is what is happening in Oregon. It can happen it Berlin, it can happen it Egypt, it can happen on the North Pole. This is why I know I was telling the truth, though not yet complete, when I said to my friend, "It's all the same".
If we're living for what counts, not merely collecting experiences but realizing that we can learn from each moment we're alive, it doesn't matter where we are or where we live, where we've been or what we've done. We will always look around and see nothing but beautiful, vibrant, living colors.