Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Workoholic's Weekend

The problem with an artistic profession and loving your work is that you’re never really “off.” There is no clear distinction between what’s work and what’s not work, because everything you do can potentially be used towards creative projects. 
Nevertheless, I had  promised myself to take weekends off during the month of August. Go to the city and walk the streets, watch people, walk in the park and sit by the lake - it’s one of the places - outside of the bus - where I can actually sit for hours and do nothing. 

“I do hope you will compose another story suite at some time,” writes Seymour Bernstein, my teacher. “Good to hear from you, and I hope you’re writing, my friend” writes Mary Ashcliffe, who leads the writers’ group in Concord. I’m on vacation, you guys, at least temporarily - of course I have a writing assignment, and I’m presenting “The Sheep that Came to School” at the South Orange Library on Tuesday, and I’m playing at a house concert on September 1st, and the studio policies need to be revised, and a couple of things organized for the next school year, and a couple of things cleaned up and put away from last school year...

Saturday morning saw me practicing “The Sheep”. When I wrote it, I thought my students were ready for a challenge, and now I’m facing the challenge myself. It was really time to take care of the studio policies, and by the time I was done with “The Sheep” it was a bit late for the bus and the park, and I found nothing wrong with a quiet afternoon and evening at home. 

I was getting a little nervous about the pieces from Schumann’s op. 12, though, which I'm planning to play at the house concert. Two of them are new, they can do with a little work - but yesterday afternoon was not a good time. While I couldn’t focus, it occurred to me that the concert is only 3 1/2 weeks away, and I haven’t scheduled any tryouts yet. Once you get past the 3 week mark, time really speeds up. My brain wasn’t really functioning, and I’m probably getting old and I’m starting to loose it, and pretty soon I won’t be able to think at all, my brain is going to shut down altogether and that will be the end of it. It’s a pretty scary thought. 

Just at that moment, a faint smell of charcoal and roasting meat came wavering through the kitchen window. A glance into the back yard showed the landlord’s brand new grill steaming away, with enough sausage and steaks to feed the entire street (I’m vegetarian). The family was gathering forces for a party - the third Saturday in a row! They must be competing for this year’s “King of the Garden Grill” award. “Umph, umph, umph” said the stereo. So much for quiet time. Subduing the urge to throw solid objects into the back yard, I closed all the windows demonstratively, which would raise the temperature in my 2nd floor apartment by another couple of degrees. 

Anger hurts yourself the most, but how do you get over it? Physical labor was all I could think of, and I had been wanting to move the shelf that accommodates my music for a while. The music is arranged in alphabetical order, and of course, everything had to be taken down and put back up to move the shelf. It didn’t exactly make me happy, but at least I was doing something useful. 

A walk through the neighborhood confirmed what I already knew: Maplewood sidewalks are an obstacle course after dark, because the roots of the trees have raised the concrete slabs the sidewalks are made of.  

Fortunately I remembered Seymour’s latest posting on You Tube on getting home, which I hadn’t listened to yet. It is a recording of a concert for children he played in 1958, in collaboration with ventriloquist Paul Winchell. It’s a delight, and just in case you need something to save your day, the links are below.

Today, I kept my promise to myself and spent the afternoon in the park, doing nothing. Action was provided by a violinist who played Bach, a big, black Persian cat who was taken for a walk on a leash, and a dachshound who, on arrival, was being transported in a pillowcase.  

Sunday afternoon in Central Park

1 comment:

  1. Birgit,

    Thanks for posting the Winchell/Bernstein sites. I have listened to 2 of them. They are truly priceless classics! I hope your life holds together for the next few weeks!!