Thursday, August 31, 2006

And Now, For a Bit of Fun

How fast can you type? My top "score" was 111 wpm. In a college career workshop, we females were told never to put our typing speed on our resumes. I was disappointed; my resume was only a half-page, and typing was one thing I could do better than most.

So, after hiding it these many years, I'm going to tell the world: I can type even faster than I can play "Flight of the Bumblebee" on the piano!

(Wait ... I don't think I've ever learned that piece ...)

Decisions, Decisions!

I've signed up for a novel-writing workshop at UNC-Asheville. The workshop leader is going to be making a presentation and signing books at a book fair on September 16. I really want to go, but the Asheville Citizen-Times 5K is that very same morning. What to do, what to do?

Running & Piano Updates

Can I write more about how good it feels to be normal? OK, I'll try not to harp on it. But I will say that sleep, meds, and running have changed my life.

Speaking of running ... I'm planning to run in my first 5K in September, and then a half-marathon in December, with a few 5Ks and/or 10Ks in between. And I have even better news: Hubster said he might start running with me. Woo hoo!

Running has cured some other physical ills I was dealing with. It's helped my circulation, my tension-induced back pain, and my breathing. My body just works better. Long-distance hiking does the same thing to me. It's good for body as well as the soul.

I haven't written about piano, but that isn't because I haven't been playing. My practice times have been coming in snatches of time here and there. I'm fitting in at least an hour a day, and my pieces are coming along. I'm excited because I'll be starting a Shostakovich piece within the next couple of months, and also a Haydn sonata that will allow me to improve/show off my fast-fingerwork abilities. Fun!

That's about it. I have more that I want to write about, but it's all jumbled in my head right now, and I still haven't done Morning Pages for the day. Later, y'all!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

For the Beauty of the Earth

We sang this in church last Sunday. It's one of my favorites. You can hear a computery-keyboard version of the music here.

FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH
Text: Folliot S. Pierpoint; Music: Conrad Kochee

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of ear and eye,
for the heart and mind's delight,
for the mystic harmony,
linking sense to sound and sight;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thy church, that evermore
lifteth holy hands above,
offering up on every shore
her pure sacrifice of love;
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

For thyself, best Gift Divine,
to the world so freely given,
for that great, great love of thine,
peace on earth, and joy in heaven:
Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

Monday, August 28, 2006

I Ran Seven Miles Today!

Woo hoo!!!! I am buff blonde runner-athlete woman!

(or at least I'm getting there!)

(P.S. No, I am not gloating. I used to be an overweight non-exerciser. Really.)

Tar Heel Tavern is Up!

Check out this week's edition at Writing for Nonprofits.

Normal Feels Blissful

It's the first day of school at the school where I taught last year. I hope my replacement is having a good day. I've met with her several times, and I think she's going to do a great job. I'm glad I'm not there, though. It's not where I need to be anymore.

My life has been pretty blissful lately, to tell the truth. It's taken all summer, but sleep and medication (and running) have transformed me into ... I don't know. A normal person? But in a good way.

For example, I have for years been working on personal writing projects but have never been able to finish any of them, so publication has never even been a consideration. I never worried about agents or query letters because I somehow knew I'd never get to the point of having anything ready to submit anyway. Now that I'm "normal," I've submitted two personal essays (one of which was accepted, so far!) and have finally been able to refine another personal essay that I started a couple of years ago. I've signed up for a novel-writing workshop. I've started making bigger strides on my piano pieces. I ran fifteen miles last week and am planning for twenty this week.

Other weird things have happened, too. I've become less self-centered and more thoughtful. Last week, for instance, I made quick breads for several people and have bought and shipped several baby gifts. And sent most of August's birthday cards on time (usually, if I send a birthday card at all, it's three to six months late).

Also, I no longer freak out when I have to go to social events. I actually look forward to some of them. I actually suggested to Hubster that we have people over one Saturday to watch football and started thinking (rather excitedly) about what food I was going to make. This is really weird behavior for me. I hate football. And I'm a friendly enough person, but at heart I'm very anti-social. I don't go to parties; on the rare occasions that I do go to parties, I spend them feeling very uncomfortable and run the risk of drinking too much to relieve the inner tension. And I certainly don't invite people over for parties.

That's changing. I don't know if this is a good thing (I'm becoming more functional) or a bad thing (am I turning into a Stepford Wife?). I think it's mostly good. The social stuff is a little weird, but I'm thrilled that I've actually written and sent off two personal essays and have a third one almost ready to go.

Today's tasks? Collect some writing samples and work on a list of ideas to pitch to a local outdoor magazine that's requested them. Edit Chapters 21 and 22 of the book I'm editing. Finish refining "Surface Tension" (the two-year-old essay) and prepare it for submission to literary magazines. Run. Practice Bach and Liszt. Pet the cats.

See, I told you. Life is pretty blissful these days.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Story of an Essay Draft

This morning, I sat down with an essay that I started writing in March of 2005. I was in a creative-nonfiction workshop when the idea for it sprouted in my brain, and I wrote several revisions for the workshop. The more feedback I got from my classmates, the more revisions I did ... and the worse the essay grew. I'd try to shorten it, and would end up deleting a paragraph, just to add 200 words elsewhere. Purple prose started to leak from the essay where there had been none before. I added details, so many new details that seemed so important ... and I ended up with a 15-page essay.

I'd meant to write something in the 5- to 7-page range.

By the time the workshop ended, I felt disheartened, discouraged, and altogether sick of the essay. I set the work aside and moved on. I've picked it up a few times in the past year and have tried to fiddle with it, but I was still sick of it. Hubster kept saying, "Just submit it as it is. It's good enough. Somebody'll publish it."

But I couldn't send it off. It was complete, yes, in that it had a beginning, a middle, and an end. It had some nice little themes, a touch of humor, and some nice descriptions that weren't too purple. It told an interesting story. But it wasn't ready. And I couldn't figure out why.

Well, I picked it up a few days ago and read it, really read it, for the first time in months. I thought to myself, "This first paragraph is a real snorer. Write something else." So I wrote something else, something that wasn't nearly as boring. And that "something else" allowed me to cut out a huge swath of the first half of the essay. I realized that many of those "important details" I'd added weren't so important after all.

I guess it's kind of like when you go to a make-your-own-pizza party. You pile your pizza high with everything you can, but after it's cooked, you realize you really didn't need or want all those extras.

So that's what happened. I gave my essay some time to cook (nearly a year and a half!), and this week I saw clearly which details were necessary, and which needed the boot. In addition, the new intro brought in a theme that, unbeknownst to me, I'd weaved through the rest of the essay. Having that theme in the intro really brings it into relief elsewhere (in addition to the other themes), and gives the entire 7-page essay a new sense of wholeness.

I'm glad I waited for the essay to cook. It's still in "draft" mode, but I worked on it for a couple of hours this morning, and I now feel like I'm fine-tuning and polishing rather than blindly feeling my way around. I actually feel a little bit like I'm making art.

It's Greek to Me ... No, It's Chinese ...

I checked Sitemeter today. Someone googled "锝嗭綊锝曪綋锝旓綊锝侊綌锝夛綇锝庛€€锝侊綌銆€锝旓綀锝呫€€" and found their way to my blog and stayed here for 18 minutes.

I think that's pretty cool. I don't even know what "锝嗭綊锝曪綋锝旓綊锝侊綌锝夛綇锝庛€€锝侊綌銆€锝旓綀锝呫€€" means. With my luck, it means "Cheesy American blogs."

Oh, well ... maybe it means "Brilliant blogs by beautiful and charming people named Waterfall."

Yep, I think I'll bet on that translation. :)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

4 + 5 = Green. Naturally.

Do you ever suddenly realize that you view the world in a way that is altogether not ... normal? I'm not asking if you march to the beat of a different drummer; we all do, to some extent, some of us more than others. But do you ever realize that a behavior or a thought process that you thought was normal ... isn't normal after all? That maybe there's even a DSM-IV-TR write-up on it?

Or this: you think you're unique, and then you learn about personality types or right-brain/left-brain studies and learn that your unique way of thinking actually fits into a defined pattern that you share with any number of other human beings. It's humbling, but it's also a bit of a relief, isn't it, to find out that there are others like you. That's how I felt when I learned I was an INFP.

I'm writing today to find out how many of you share a strange quirk that I have, one I was never actually aware of until I thought about it. What prompted the old noggin into thinking about it was a segment of Primetime's "Medical Mysteries" on the neurological condition of synaesthesia. (Wikipedia entry here).

A person with synaesthesia basically couples two senses together. I'd heard of this condition before, but only in the context of music: for some people, an A-major chord will have a yellow quality, while a B-flat note will be imbued with blue-green sense of longing. Weird, I know. I've always thought it a strange but interesting condition, one that I definitely didn't have.

Primetime did a story on the musical synaesthesia (actually called "music-color synaesthesia"), but they also did one on grapheme-lexical synaesthesia, where a person sees letters and numbers as having different colors. There's also something called "ordinal linguistic personification," where numbers, days of the week, and days of the month seem to possess specific personalities.

OK. The music-color thing is weird. But I have always associated numbers and letters with specific colors and personalities. And days of the week with particular personalities and mind-symbols. I don't know if I'm a true "synaesthete," but the grapheme-lexical thinking patterns, as explained on Primetime, sounded very familiar.

I think it's part of why I'm so good at memorizing dates and number-sequences, and why I've always been so horrible at math. If you combine a green number with a yellow number, then you get a greenish-yellow number. Add some red, and you end up with something mottled or something greenish-orange, depending on which numbers are involved. That's how I remember numbers and dates. I associate them with their colors. Letters have colors and personalities, too. It's a little jarring to see the red "J"-looking symbol on a Jiffy Lube sign because the J in my head has always been deep royal purple.

Please, if you also do this, let me know. I've brought the subject up with several friends and family members, and they just shake their heads and look at me like I'm a creature from outer space. Or the local mental hospital.

So, do you associate numbers and letters with colors? Musical notes with colors? Words with taste? Do you find Monday to be a rather flippant youngster, and Thursday to be an overprotective mom-type? Or do those days evoke other personalities for you? Do tell!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Blonde Moment

I was catching up on some blogs, adding a few to the blogroll, etc., and I had probably five or six blogs open at once on my screen.

I made a comment, and a rather long one at that, on one blog. I hit "post," closed the comment box, and that was that.

But I think I commented on the wrong blog. I closed all of the blogs several minutes later and found an open comment box--the one I'd meant to write in--remaining.

I went back to the blog where I thought I'd commented, and there was no comment there.

So, if I've written a completely random and off-topic comment on your blog, now you know why. Of course, I've written completely random comments before, but I do generally stay on topic.

Not this time.

Oops!

Identity Moment

I heard a radio show the other night, and the guy being interviewed kept referring to "epiphany moments." It started to get a little old, all of these epiphany moments he kept remembering. But then I realized that I had an epiphany moment this weekend ... though I think "identity moment" is a more appropriate term.

Saturday morning. We were in Wintersville, Ohio (near Wheeling), for a Hubster family reunion. The reunion wasn't until Sunday, so Hub wanted to spend Saturday visiting some old friends and running some errands that could only be done in Wintersville.

I had him drop me off at the Indian Creek High School track that morning. Told him to come back in an hour. And then I started running. The weather was cool; there was a nice breeze, and the sky was overcast but not in an it's-going-to-rain-any-second way. I'd forgotten my iPod at home, so I was a little nervous that I wouldn't be able to run without my music.

It was a silly thing to worry about. The sound of my feet hitting the track was very ... relaxing. Meditative. I focused on how the track's springiness felt below my feet, focused on my breathing, focused on ... running. Not on whatever 80s tune was blasting into my ears.

I ran at a slow pace, and I kept that pace for four and a half miles. Hubster showed up early and walked an additional half-mile "cooldown" with me. I felt so good. I wasn't out of breath. I think I could have run another mile or two at that pace.

So, here's the identify moment: I thought to myself, "I am a runner." Not unlike when I stood at the summit of Katahdin on Day 1 of my thru-hike and thought to myself, "I am a thru-hiker." Part of the "I am a runner" thoughts came because running felt so good. Part of it was that I was doing something I'd seen other runners do, something that I thought was crazy: taking an hour out of my "vacation" to run.

When I first started in early July, running was hard. I sweated buckets and my face turned purple, and covering a single mile was a struggle. Sometime in the last couple of weeks, my face quit turning purple. I don't really start sweating until after a mile and a half ... and that first mile is easy. The first three miles are easy. I ran five miles yesterday, including speed intervals, and I felt great afterwards. The very act of running--and not just the sense of accomplishment that followed it--felt great.

I think I've passed some invisible benchmark. A half-marathon (maybe this one) is in my sights now. I still have yet to run more than five miles at a time, but my body is getting into such shape that even five miles don't kill me.

Now, if my knee will just hold out, I'll be in good shape for a December half-marathon! I'm doing weight training to strengthen my quads and other leg muscles, so that should help.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Monday, August 21

I'm really tired tonight, so I'm just going to write a quick log for today's practice.

I only got to spend about 45 minutes at the piano tonight. I mostly worked on adding another couple of measures of the fugue. I did a lot of drilling, but it didn't seem like my mind was registering it. I was just really tired, possibly because I did a longer-than-usual run today (5 miles).

I'm rearranging my schedule tomorrow so that I practice the Liszt first, and during the day rather than at night after dinner. I hope to devote the after-dinner practice to JSB, and then have another practice on Wednesday before my afternoon lesson.

Time to get some sleep!

Quick Break from Writing

I got back from a weekend trip to Ohio yesterday and have been writing up a storm all morning. OK, so I've been re-working a couple of essays that I've picked at for months, but I'm just about ready to send them out to a few places.

Next on the agenda is to work on two books: one a hiking guide, an idea I've been toying with for three years (but have never had time to pursue), and another a novel, the seed of which has only just formed in my mind in the last couple of weeks.

I feel like I'm recovering after a long illness. I am, really, albeit "mental" illness--chronic insomnia and bipolar disorder are a deadly combination, one that I do not recommend to anyone who enjoys the fruits of sanity. Recovery has taken all summer and several doctor$ and medication$, but I'm starting to feel normal--starting to feel GOOD--again.

Hubster is happy about this. And I'm happy to be writing once more.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Friday, August 18

Practiced for about 80 minutes. The usual warm-ups, plus some of the fugue and a lot of the Liszt with no pedal and much exactitude.

It was a good practice. Went longer than I'd planned, which was nice because I won't be able to practice again until Monday at the earliest.

August 17: Piano Lesson

Good lesson today. Deborah and I usually chat up a storm before we get around to music, but that didn't happen today. We just dove right into the lesson.

Scales and arpeggios were fine. When we got to Suzuki, I told her I didn't want to do Suzuki anymore, that I felt that the time required wasn't equal to the benefit it was giving me. I knew she wouldn't be happy to hear that. But it's true--I hate taking valuable practice time to work on something that I believe is, honestly, not challenging enough. Particularly when I have a Liszt transcription and a fugue to work on.

She compromised. She said, "OK, maybe some of these pieces are too easy for you, but I want you to try the Beethoven sonatina at the end of the book." At two pages and with two movements, it's the longest piece in Suzuki Book II. So I guess I'll get started listening to that.

I played my twelve and a half measures of the Bach and she basically said to keep on doing what I'm doing, that it sounded very precise, intelligent, and musical, and that I seem to be doing a wonderful job practicing it. That was it. I must admit that I did play it pretty well.

I played through the Liszt, not very well, which shouldn't be a surprise since I slacked on it all week. After I played through it, I told her that I'd slacked on it, and that it just paled so much in comparison to the Bach. I felt really bad, saying that I was getting bored by a piece, particularly something as beautiful as the Liszt.

But she seemed to understand! She said that the Liszt bores me because the Bach is such an intellectual piece and the Liszt isn't a very intellectual piece at all. The Liszt is beautiful, of course, but it's not as interesting as the Bach on a theoretical level. In addition, it's not as difficult as the Bach.

"I just wish I could motivate myself to practice the Liszt with as much focus and tenacity as I give the Bach," I said.

"So do that," she replied.

"But ... I don't know how!"

"Practice it like the Bach," she said. "No pedal. Play everything very distinctly. Don't let yourself be lazy about the notes or the timing. Don't play it rubato. Pretend it's Bach."

Basically, I am to strip the Liszt down of all of its exterior beauty and look at the inner workings. I think that will help. I find that the rubato and pedal tend to make me lazy when I practice.

It was a good lesson. It was the most "piano-focused" lesson we've had in a while.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Wednesday, August 16

I only managed about 30 minutes at the piano today, but I did work on the Liszt. I'm posting this on Thursday morning and my piano lesson is this afternoon, so I'll write more about my progress after my lesson.

It's Piano Day! Hooray! Hooray!

It's finally Piano Day! Folks, it's been awhile since my last Piano Day. My teacher, Deborah, took "summer vacation" so we had no piano lessons for two long weeks. What's worse is that I forgot there was no piano the first week and I went anyway. No one was there. I was so sad. It was like waking up on Christmas morning and finding no toys. I called Deborah's cell phone and left her a voice mail, asking her where she was, then after I hung up I felt like a doofus because only then did I remember it was "summer vacation."

Pooh. Then my lesson was supposed to be yesterday but Deborah called earlier this week and asked if I come come today instead. Oh, okay. I'll wait twenty-four more endless hours. Sigh.

But before my piano lesson starts, I have to finish editing Jan's introduction so she can get it to her publisher, meet with the new English teacher (the one who's replacing me), work on an essay, and do some research for my hiking book. Oh, and I want to stop and visit a company that may be hiring me on a freelance basis. And run four miles. All before 4:30. Better get busy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

This and That

This blog is getting so ... bloggy. Blech. Those of you who miss my piano posts can find 'em at my practice blog. It's very boring for non-pianist types, but would probably be of some interest to other amateur pianists.

I've been under the weather a little bit, trying to adjust to medications. Life on medication is very different ... it's good, but it's different. I'm calmer and less irritable, but I'm also not very motivated to write or practice piano, and I've been having to make a conscious effort to do both. Once I get started, I'm there. But it takes awhile.

School is starting everywhere. The teacher blogs are suddenly less busy, and when the teachers do post, they talk about in-services and students and co-workers. I wondered if I would miss school, if I would regret having stepped down from the teaching job. So far, I don't. I miss certain things about it, but I know I did the right thing.

I have several freelance writing jobs in the pipes. One is a definite "go" and I'm just waiting for the work to come in. Another is a possibility, and if it comes through ... it will be a nice job. I'm almost finished with the book I've been editing for the last month, waiting for my author to send me Chapter 21. While waiting, I'm going to work on her intro--that's on the agenda for today.

I met with a trainer named Maggie yesterday. She is a runner, and I wanted to pick a runner's brain about what I should and shouldn't be doing in my quest to someday run a half-marathon. I learned that I'm doing several things wrong, so I'm eager to get back to the gym and start doing them right:

1. I've been trying to increase my distance while increasing my speed. Bad, bad, bad. When I want to focus on distance, I should remain at a comfortable jog. When I want to work on speed, I should work in intervals and not concern myself with covering X number of miles.

2. I haven't been doing any lower-body weight-training. I figured running covered everything. (And boy is it shaping up these legs of mine!) I need to do some lower-body weights, it seems, to hit some of the spots that running doesn't hit.

3. I shouldn't try to run every day. I should run no more than four days a week, and two of those days should focus on speed and/or hills while two of them focus on longer distances at a slower pace.

So, I need to make a few changes in my routine.

I made Hubster a delicious dinner the other night, and it took all of 25 minutes to prepare: Chicken and Summer-Vegetable Tostadas from the August 2006 issue of Cooking Light. It was so good that I wanted to tell everyone about it, and that you can find it online at the link above. Cooking Light is, hands-down, my favorite magazine. Not only does it have great healthy recipes, but it's well-written and the copy editor rocks because I rarely ever find annoying typos.

Piano lessons start again tomorrow. Woo hoo! I've spent many hours at the piano this summer and am ready to begin lessons again.

That's about it. My author's manuscript is a-callin'. Later, y'all.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, Part II

I was able to squeeze in 30 minutes of practice-time tonight, but I'm afraid I didn't make very efficient use of my time. Normally I'm Little Miss Efficiency when it comes to practicing, since I normally have so little time as it is.

I planned to work on the Liszt tonight. So, naturally, I walked into the Inner Sanctum, plopped the Bach fugue onto the piano, and began practicing.

There's something wrong with this picture, isn't there.

Folks, I am a fugue-aholic. The fugue is like a big, juicy zit, and I can't stop picking at it. OK, maybe that's not the best simile for it. Zits are gross, infected, pus-filled things. The fugue is transcendent. Divine. A work of genius.

Yep, the fugue went and got transcendent on me again tonight. I worked on the two "end pieces" of the section I've been working on HT for the last hundred years few weeks. Measures 14 and 15 were still good, but the measures at the end needed work. So I worked. Got the kinks out (again), then played it through, mm 14-26. It sounded good, but I did the panic-and-pause thing a couple of times in the last couple of measures.

Slow down, Waterfall. The fugue ain't goin' anywhere.

So I slowed down. Way down. Turned on the metronome so that each click was a sixteenth note. (40 being a quarter note was too fast for the pace I wanted.)

Ahh. There is something about playing a passage perfectly, even if it is at 30% tempo.

I turned off the metronome and played through the passage again, just as slowly. Ahh. That's when it got transcendent. Starting with measure 16 (Episode 2), the soprano sings the most delightful little melody, jumping up a sixth and holding the note while the alto and bass do their thing underneath. That little held high note ... ahh. Sweet. The next high held note is a little lower, and the next a little lower. It's this wonderful descending line that stands out from everything else. The notes are like little bells dinging. It's divine.

After practicing that, do you think I was capable of moving on to the Liszt?

Of course I was. But not very. I played through it once, thinking, "If I just put some time into this, I could have it. I would be ready to pronounce it 'good enough' and get to the 'maintenance' stage of the piece and start learning something new."

Yes, I'm that close. Yet my motivation to move forward is surprisingly low. Why? Do I love this piece so much that I don't want to get to the "maintenance" stage? I don't know. All I know is that, if I practice the Bach first, I will never get around to practicing the Liszt.

Tomorrow. Liszt. If there's time afterward, then Bach. But tomorrow's practice will be devoted to poor, neglected Franzi.

Tuesday, August 15

Spent 80 minutes practicing so far today, and I'm hoping I'll be able to grab another hour at the piano this evening.

Scales sound good. OK, so g# gave me some trouble, but I did a little bit of 9-8 and did a little bit of playing in rhythms, and voila! it sounded fine after that.

Arpeggios sound pretty good, too. I've always been better at scales than arpeggios ... maybe that's just the way it's supposed to be. As always, they sound good but not great to my ears.

Inversions are becoming much smoother. Triad inversions (plus the 4-note dominant seventh) are easy enough to play, but I've started playing the triads in octaves (4 notes). That makes it a little harder. The familiar focus has to shift. Sometimes the results aren't so great.

I can now play twelve and a half measures of the fugue! It doesn't sound like much, but it's a nice little chunk of music. I started with mm 25-26, then went back and worked on mm 14-15 (the two measures before the big section I've been working on for so long). Measures 25 and 26 were stubborn, but mm 14-15 didn't take long at all.

Measures 25-26: OK, here's what's going on. The RH is playing soprano and alto together. The soprano voice is bouncing along, jumping up sixths in a staccato. The alto is legato and is descending as the sixths descend. Meanwhile the LH bass is pattering out the counter-subject, which is very similar to but not exactly like something it plays a few measures earlier ... so there was the issue of remembering to play it the "new" way and not the "old" way.

Measures 14-15: Bach has mercy. Measures 14 and 15 came pretty easily. Here, the RH is doing the pattering while the LH plays a version of the subject. The alto is quiet for most of these measures, which, I'm sure, is part of why it wasn't too hard to get in my hands.

I practiced the Liszt for about 15 minutes but got tired of sitting (how's that for an excuse?). I did get to work on the first page and a half, which I have by memory. It sounds good; at this point, I'm just trying to play it smoothly and by memory. I'm sure Deborah will have many things to point out when I play it for her on Thursday. But to my ears, for now, my progress is sounding good.

Tuesday Morning Adventure

Once a year, I have to take Beau the Cat to the vet for his shots. I dread this adventure. Beau weighs twenty pounds and has some bobcat in him. His teeth are huge. His claws are huge. He can be vicious and mean. And he hates the vet.

I'd gotten a sleepy pill for him yesterday, so this morning we crumbled it and disguised it in a bowl of "magic tuna." He ate about half the tuna before he realized we were trying to pull a fast one over him. He's too smart for that. He rubbed his paw all around the bowl, as if he were covering up poop. That's his way of saying, "I'm not eating this s***."

With much physical effort but no loss of blood, Hubster and I managed to wrangle Beau into the Furrari (his big cat carrier). Hubster went on to work while Beau and I went to the vet. Of course, Beau cried pitifully the whole way there. It breaks my heart, to hear him cry like that. Big, tough kitty that he is, crying like a little hurt kitten.

Once at the vet and in the examination room, we all realized that Beau hadn't eaten enough "magic tuna" to render him docile. The doc gave him a "magic shot" to calm him down and left the room, saying he'd give the shot some time to kick in before he worked on Beau.

So Beau, crying, is wobbling all over the place with his eyes crossed. I felt like a horrible mother. My poor child. He wobbled onto my lap and I held him, petting him. Then, suddenly, he hissed and swiped at me. Drew blood. I should have known blood would be involved in our annual trip to the vet. It always is.

The vet was able to give him his shots, but he couldn't give him a physical exam. Even when drunk off his tail, Beau can be vicious, and he wasn't about to let some vet clean his big, beautiful teeth.

So we're home now. I'm exhausted and poor, wobbly, cross-eyed Beau has retired to his favorite cardboard box. I feel so bad for the little fella. But I'm really glad we got the dreaded annual vet-visit over with today. He's safe from rabies, feline leukemia, and all the other nasties for another year now.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Genre Ambivalence

Am I a fiction writer? And I a non-fiction writer? Am I a little bit of both? Am I neither?

Those aren't questions I think about very often. Maybe I should think about them more. I was forced to consider them earlier today. I'd filled out my application for the Great Smokies Writing Program on Friday and was getting ready to mail it today. I looked over it one last time and paused when I read the name of the class I'd signed up for.

It was a creative-nonfiction workshop. When I told some family members and friends that I would be taking a creative-nonfiction workshop, their general response was, "You? Why do you need to take a writing class?"

"It's not really a writing class," I explained. "It's a workshop for beginning and advanced writers. We work on creative nonfiction and give and receive feedback. I think it'll be good to meet other writers, to get some response to my work, and ... oh, I don't know. I think it will be a good motivator, too."

My loved ones sniffed. "Well, I don't think you need to spend money (which, of course, you don't have) on a writing class. They should be paying you to teach it."

Yeah, whatever. My loved ones didn't understand. They don't understand the need for word-people to seek out other word-people and discuss ... well, words. Sure, I probably could run a creative-nonfiction workshop, but that wasn't the point. The point was, I wanted to be in an environment that combined writing and school--and I wanted to be the student this time.

Fast-forward to this morning. I had already filled out the application and written the check. I sealed and stamped the envelope, put it in the mailbox, and flipped the little red flag up. But when I came back inside, I looked over the course listings and thought ... hmm ... maybe I should have signed up for the novel-writing workshop instead.

I started to e-mail the director and ask if I had to have a novel-in-progress in order to sign up for that workshop. Then I deleted the e-mail. I'd already signed up for creative nonfiction. It was offered at the same time as the novel workshop, so I couldn't sign up for both. Creative nonfiction was my choice.

But ...

I started to e-mail the director again with my question, then thought, "Wait a minute. I do have a novel-in-progress. And I've been making notes for two weeks on another idea for a novel." So there you go. Not one but two novels in progress. And if I really wanted to be optimistic, I could add a third one that I wrote in college. The draft was 600 handwritten pages, but I never went back to write the second draft.

Then I thought about how I've written a lot of creative nonfiction, how I've been paid to write creative nonfiction, how I'm editing a creative nonfiction book right now and feel very confident that I know what I'm doing, thankyouverymuch. And how I've taken workshops in creative nonfiction. And how I just got off the phone with a company an hour before, setting up a meeting for a possible freelance writing (nonfiction) job.

I've written a lot of creative nonfiction, but fiction is what I've always wanted to write. I've written plenty of attempts at fiction; I've just never written anything that's seen the light of day. And I've certainly never sent anything off, except for a novel I wrote in eighth grade, which I entered into a novel contest for teenagers. (The winning manuscript got published. I'm honestly glad my silly melodrama didn't win.)

I've written plenty of attempts at fiction, but I've never once taken a fiction-writing workshop. I've never taken a fiction-writing class of any kind. I've never had the nerve to do such a thing.

Until now.

I went to the mailbox, opened the envelope (the glue hadn't dried yet), rewrote the application to sign up for the novel workshop, stuffed it back into the envelope, taped the envelope shut, and put it back into the mailbox.

I've written plenty of creative nonfiction, but at heart I'm a fiction writer. And I'm going to take my first-ever fiction-writing workshop, starting in about two weeks.

How It Feels To Be Functional

Reader, welcome to my craziness.

I'm just saying that as a warning. I'm going to tell you some strange ways that my life has changed since I started taking medication to help me sleep and control my moods.

No, I have not been rendered nonfunctional like Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I was nonfunctional before.

Now I'm strangely ... normal. Functional.

Normal and functional. Yuck. It reeks of ... unoriginality. Mediocrity. But it beats not sleeping and having crazy mood swings.

Thursday night I had this cocktail party to go to. Normally, when it comes to social events, my behavior is as follows:

1. When I get invited, I feel all bubbly and excited and say things like, "Yes, I'd love to go to your party!"

2. As the day of the party draws nearer, I get butterflies in my stomach. Butterflies turn into rocks, I feel physically ill, and the moods start upping and downing.

3. The day of the party, or sometimes the day before, I call the host and apologize, saying I won't be able to come after all.

4. I stay home and feel guilty for calling at the last minute, and usually proceed to get extremely depressed.

I did none of the above this time, except for RSVP-ing with a "yes" when invited.

I wore a fun, casual little sundress, knowing I'd probably be slightly more dressed up than most others, but not caring. We went to the cocktail party and I actually had a nice time. (It helped that all of the other attendees were classical-music lovers.)

Normally, after I've been to a social event, I replay it all in my head ad nauseam and get myself paranoid and sick over what I might have done or said wrong. This time, I had no such thoughts. Hub and I just ... went home.

Then, Saturday night was the concert. I made chocolate truffles for the reception and was actually excited about going. As much as I love classical music, I do not typically get excited about going to "people events" of any kind. I would rather stay home in my cave. I've been known to buy a ticket to a play or concert and then not go because I lost my nerve. The thought of all those people ...

We went to the concert. I collected tickets and handed out programs, helped work the reception, chatted with the other classical-music lovers, and just generally enjoyed myself. And afterward, I didn't wonder what I had done or said wrong. I just thought, "Well, that was a really great evening."

Weird.

It feels so strange not to stress out over social events. But it's also a huge relief. So much emotional energy goes into stress like that.

Pre-medication, I definitely would have ditched the cocktail party and quite possibly would have ditched the concert. But because I didn't, I've made some new friends/acquaintances who love classical music, and I got to enjoy a wonderful performance by Konstantin Soukhovetski that included "my" sonata, the Mozart A minor (K. 310), which I worked on in high school and college. I would have hated to miss that.

So, I'm probably not nearly as interesting with meds, but I'm so much more relaxed. It makes all the difference. Hopefully things will continue to improve.

My writing and piano practices are going well, too. Woo hoo!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sunday Travel

This morning after church, I headed to Brevard to visit my sister, Mu, and meet Gannet Girl. I think this may be the first blog-friend I've ever met in person. We hung out at Quotations and chatted--very nice meeting!

My maw and paw showed up later because they had to drop some stuff off at my sister's. After Gannet Girl left, we headed over to Mu's house to look at some scrapbooking things and go over some work I'm doing for my dad.

It's been a good weekend. Ah, life is so normal when one takes happy pills and sleeping pills.

Fall Semester Starts Soon!

I won't be a teacher this year. I'll be a student--a piano student (as always), and a creative non-fiction student. As well as a penniless working writer.

Piano starts next week. I am so excited. It's really a little sad, the way I live for my piano lessons. I don't know why I do. I just love them. So I'm a happy girl because I'll soon begin the "fall semester" of music.

I'm also signing up for a creative non-fiction workshop through UNC-Asheville's Great Smokies Writing Program. It doesn't start until September, but I'm really excited about it: I'll have piano in the afternoon, then take a short break (can anyone say "coffee shop"?), then head over to my writing workshop. All of my other days will be work, work, work (yes, I got a big freelance project I was hoping to get), but one day a week will be for "self-education."

Life is good. I love self-educating. All autodidacts do (har, har, har!).

Sunday, August 13

First of all, my lack of posts doesn't necessarily indicate a lack of practice, though my summer-glut of monster practice-sessions seems to have tapered off a bit.

Thursday night, I went to a cocktail party and met Russian pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski. Friday around 1:00, my parents came over. My dad went off to play golf with the Hubster while my mom and I visited and made a cobbler. That evening, we all had dinner and dessert to celebrate my dad's birthday. (Though I later got a message from Konstantin's host asking if I wanted to hear Konstantin practice Friday afternoon ... argh! Too late!) I did get to practice for about an hour on Friday night, but most of it was devoted to the music I would be playing on Sunday morning at church (though I also did the usual scales, arps, and inversions, plus a couple of play-throughs of the Liszt).

Saturday wasn't a day for practicing. I made chocolate truffles for part of the day in preparation for the "Classics and Chocolate" concert that night. I also did some much-needed house-cleaning. I'd rather practice than clean house, and it shows ... I am MUCH better at piano than I am at housework!

After the Konstantin concert, I came home and played through my old sonata, the Mozart A minor (K. 310), which I hadn't touched since my freshman year of college. Konstantin played it as part of his concert, and I was chomping at the bit to get home and play! Alas, my unpracticed version didn't sound quite as good as his ... but he got me thinking about doing a Mozart sonata next instead of a Haydn.

OK, enough babbling. On to my practice session.

I practiced for about 75 minutes tonight. Did scales (E and c#), inversions, and arps (Ab and f#). Skipped Suzuki and went straight to Bach. Since I hadn't had an intense practice in several days, I reviewed what I'd already learned (mm 16-24.75), and boy was it sloppy! I played through those measures several times, v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, paying close attention to my hands, the fingering, the chords, and playing it ... perfectly. (Funny how "perfection" isn't so hard when you play at 10 or 20% of the speed you normally use.)

Once I was satisfied, I forged ahead to new territory: the last beat of measure 24, plus the first three beats of measure 25.

Whew. The challenges never end. I worked on the final beat of measure 24, which, for some reason, gave me trouble. When I finally managed to coordinate my hands, I played it twenty times through (twenty being the magic number), and then the entire measure twenty times, and it sounded good. Then it was on to measure 25.

OK. This measure made me feel like my head was going to explode.

All three voices take part in most of this snippet. Probably the most challenging part for me was the second beat of measure 25. All three voices are playing: the soprano (RH) is restating the subject using sixteenth and eighth notes, the alto (RH) is harmonizing with descending half-notes and held quarter notes, and the bass (LH) is playing the counter-subject, which is made of sixteenth notes and has a "pattering" sound.

Well, at one point, the alto plays the B# above middle C (i.e., an octave above middle C), the soprano plays a B# an octave higher, and the bass plays a G# below middle C. Not that confusing. Only ...

The soprano note is a staccato eighth note. The alto note is a half note (i.e., it needs to be "held" for a couple of beats). The bass note, meanwhile, should be played as a kind of detached legato. Basically, this means I play three notes, each of varying lengths, simultaneously.

It's harder than it sounds, but it also, surprisingly, didn't take me as long to master as I thought it would.

Twenty is the magic number. I played the first three beats of measure 25 twenty times. Then mm 24 and 25 twenty times. Then the section from mm 19 to 25 a few times (not twenty). Then mm 16 through 25.

Woo hoo! Sixteen million hours of practice, and I can now play ten, count 'em, TEN measures HT! Moving right along, I am!

Tomorrow I'm going to review what I did tonight, but I'm also going to work more on the Liszt, since poor Franzi was neglected ... again.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bumbleberry Cobbler & Tuna

Since Thursday was my dad's 73rd birthday and yesterday was Beau's tenth birthday, yesterday was a good day for celebration. My dad and Hubster went to play golf in the afternoon while my mom and I worked on my dad's birthday present: Bumbleberry Cobbler.

I'd never heard of bumbleberry cobbler, but it was in my King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion (awesome cookbook--highly recommeded for the baker in your life). It's basically made of a blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, brown sugar, and a homemade biscuit-crust topping. Yum. My dad loves berries, biscuits, vanilla bean ice cream, and a little decaf after dinner, so after dinner I served bumbleberry cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream and a little decaf.

My dad was happy. :)

For Beau's birthday, I bought a small can of tuna, and my mom got him a cat toy and some Whisker Lickins cat treats. He ate his tuna while we ate our bumbleberry cobbler, then he had some Whisker Lickins for dessert.

Beau was happy. So was Hideaway, who got to eat some Whisker Lickins, too. :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cocktail Party

I'm going to a cocktail party tonight. Shy, introverted little me. I feel like such a socialite. It's a casual-get-together cocktail party. I have a cute sundress that I never wear, so I dragged it out and dusted it off. I'm probably a little overdressed, but better overdressed than underdressed, right?

The purpose of the coctail party is to greet Russian pianist Konstantin Soukhovetski to western North Carolina. He'll be performing at HART in Waynesville Saturday night for the Arts Council's annual "Classics and Chocolate" concert.

Classical music and chocolate ... just add cats, a good book, and a glass of wine, and you've got a winning combination!

The Hubster had better get home soon, or we're going to be late to the cocktail party. I don't want to be late, not even fashionably so!

Birthday "Reprint"

My dad is 73 years old today. Happy birthday, Mr. Hugh! Below is a little piece I wrote on this blog two years ago. He loved it, so I'm posting it again.

A Humory

(Humory = Hugh + Memory)

Basketball Season, 1975

We're probably riding in the Oldsmobile, or maybe we're in the silver Mercedes that, unbeknownst to me, my dad will end up driving for the next 20 years. I'm sure we have WJBO on the radio. Or perhaps the radio is off, and we're singing "Frere Jacques" and "Alouette." My dad is teaching me French at the nearly the same time I'm learning English.

We're on our way to visit the home of a woman who is apparently a close friend of my dad's, Ms. Ella Shoe. I've never met her, though, even at my young age, I'm very impressed by her generosity. This woman has a huge house, and she's always inviting hundreds of people to visit and watch her kids play basketball. My dad and I have made it a sort of ritual to go to Ella Shoe's house; even in 1975, when I am barely five years old, it's a familiar event for me.

After a stop at IHOP or, in later years
Coffee Call for beignets and cafe' au lait, Daddy and I head over to the grand home of Ella Shoe herself. She has THE COOLEST house, let me tell you. It's perfectly round and had curved concrete ramps like great welcoming arms, and these "arms" lead to the doors. So many doors! I figure that Ella must be very rich, and she clearly loves visitors. Daddy holds my hand as we walk "uphill" in the winter darkness. We hand our tickets to "the man," then enter the house.

What a place! It smells like popcorn, roasted peanuts, and chewed-up gum, and it's so bright and colorful! Everyone is dressed in purple and gold, and all things purple and gold are for sale. I see other little girls my age dressed like cheerleaders, complete with purple-and-gold pom-poms. From a young age, I learn to love purple and gold. Even Daddy is wearing a gold jacket. I feel a little overwhelmed by all the people, but safe with my Daddy, who is taller than everyone. Like most five-year-olds, I guess, I imagine that my dad is the tallest man in the world. He buys a program, then we enter Portal M to find our seats--section M19, row L--and then the fun really begins.

It is here at Ella Shoe's that I first learn to nurture what will become a lifelong fascination with observing people. Forget the basketball court, which seems miles away to my five-year-old mind; our seats are at the end of the row, and my favorite activity is to watch the endless stream of people walking up and down the steps of the aisle. OK, so maybe I'm a bit too easily amused.

But it is all so exciting! I'm endlessly fascinated by the bright colors and the wonderful smells! Not only is everyone dressed brightly, but the seats themselves are purple and gold! It's like a circus! And colorful flags line the stadium! And the energy of the place rises feverishly when Ella Shoe's children burst out onto the court far below. Everyone stands and cheers! At the age of five, I don't think it strange that Ella's children are a mix of black and white; the only colors I see are the purple, gold, and white of the uniforms. Ella's kids wear those colors, and they are the ones we cheer for. The ones wearing the other colors? They don't matter. They are, as Daddy tells me, the "Visitor." He may as well have called them "martians." They are not our team. We do not cheer for them.

And I haven't even mentioned the
music, which is the best part of all! From the National Anthem to "Tiger Rag" to Ella Shoe's very own Fight Song, the music carries and energizes the charged spirit of the place. At five, I assume that the band members are also Ella Shoe's children. Thanks to them, and the early indoctrination of my devoted father, the Ella Shoe Fight Song today has a similar emotional effect on me as the National Anthem or "Amazing Grace."

After the game (we stay till the end), I'm tired, and Daddy picks me up and carries me down the sloping ramp that spits everyone back outside. I don't know if we won or lost; I didn't really watch the game. Daddy may have watched it, but we also watched the people, shared popcorn and a coke, looked at the flags and the huge electronic scoreboard, took turns looking for Aunt Joyce and Uncle Warren through binoculars borrowed from a neighbor, and flipped through the program. All and all I just enjoyed spending time with my Daddy at Ella Shoe's.

The visits to Ella Shoe's with my dad, from 1973 until the 1990s, make for some of my happiest memories. To this day, I love all things "Ella Shoe" ... I mean, all things
LSU. And of course, I love my dad--for making those memories with me, and for being such a wonderful dad.

And so goes the story of Hugh Baxley's successful and complete indoctrination of his oldest daughter.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hugh!


Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Fugin' is Fun (and I am a Big Ball of Mush)

I am such a ball of mush. This post is from my piano-practice blog, but I know a lot of y'all don't read it, and I wanted to share it with the world.

I practiced for about 60 minutes tonight. I'd had a glass of wine with my husband at dinner to celebrate the bonu$ he got today, so I was feeling a little woozy when I sat down tonight to practice. I didn't expect a very good practice because I wasn't feeling quite alert enough for a good practice.

Went through scales, arps, and inversions with my eyes closed. Literally. Just resting my eyes, I was. And the inversions sounded a lot better than usual. Usually, I'm scurrying to get the four fingers in the right place each inversion, and tonight I just played through them with a Zen-like calm. Weird. Wonderful, but weird.

I played through Suzuki a couple of times, then moved on to the fugue.

What a great practice. It started off rather slow, but it ended up ... transforming.

My goal for the night was the tail end of measure 24. This is shortly after the bass voice has rejoined the soprano and alto. It's tricky, with the bass holding a note while the alto plays, and then the alto immediately holding a note while the bass plays. Meanwhile the soprano plays a steady Bach-style legato. For the last two notes, the alto rests, and it's harder than you would think, to remember to pick up that alto finger and let the bass and soprano play the last two notes alone.

I had to play through that single beat about twenty times before the passage, with all its holding and resting, started to feel natural.

Of course, I had to rewrite the fingering in several places ... but I realized something important: the fingering-changes are an adjustment I've made for my hand size. Rather than struggle through an awkward fingering, somehow thinking I'm doing something "advanced" because it "feels difficult," I'm coming up with "easier" fingerings that work best for me. The challenge, then, isn't to hold my hand in weird positions and look strained; it's to hold or rest a note, to play it staccato or legato, using the fingering that feels most natural to my hand.

Duh. Why did it take me so long to figure that one out? No clue.

After playing the final beat of measure 24 twenty or so times, I played the entire measure twenty times. Then I played measures 23 and 24 together twenty times. Then the "section," starting with the second beat of measure 19--you guessed it, twenty times. Then I played through measures 17 through 24 a few times (not twenty--I was starting to get tired!). As with the Liszt, I finally feel like I'm starting to make music with this piece--even though I still have a long way to go.

Something else wonderful happened tonight, though.

OK. I know this piece very well. I can probably hum the soprano, alto, and bass voices each for you (but please, don't ask me to do that!). I have analyzed it, listened to it, played it on my iPod as I've fallen asleep at night. I've learned it voices separately and hands separately, and now I'm learning it hands together. This piece has become a part of me.

So it was strange and refreshing when I played the first beat of measure 23 tonight and was suddenly struck by the most profound-feeling sense of longing. The pathos of those few notes took me by surprise, and I can't begin to explain the yearning that welled up in me. Yearning for what, I don't know. But whenever I played those four notes, I felt ... homesick? nostalgic? sad? romantic? All of those things.

But I wasn't tempted to play it "romantically," with pedal or rubato or anything like that. It's perfect without all of that added stuff. But the longing ... it was something greater than the longing that Romantic pieces sometimes pull up.

Then, while I was playing mm 17-24, I got to the last beat of measure 17, and again ... the yearning. It was so ... delicious, yet so ... piercing. I played it again.

I know. It sounds like I could be writing about sex. Maybe it's akin to sex. Whatever it was, it was powerful. And I don't think it was the wine, because the slight buzz of that wore off pretty quickly.

What was it about these combinations of notes that stirred up such emotions in me? When I first learned these sections, I thought things like, "Oh, that's pretty," or "Hm, that's clever." But now they seemed ... miraculous. And I was struck by the most profound sense of honor, of privilege for having the opportunity, the skill, and the tenacity to be able to participate in the miraculous. To be a part of something that the genius Bach started over 300 years ago.

I know. I'm getting wordy and purple-prosey. I don't care. I'm not above being moved emotionally by music (if I were, I doubt that I'd have much use for music at all!), but I have been approaching the fugue as a series of tasks and challenges. If I could just be driven and dedicated enough, I would get it. I wasn't thinking about emotional impact ... if it came, it would certainly come later, after I had learned the entire piece as an organic whole.

Tonight, all of that work paid off, even if in just a small way, in just two short sections. For a couple of moments, the fugue ceased to be a series of mini-projects and became something transcendent. And I got to be a part of it. Me and George.

It was a good practice.

Fugin' is Fun

I practiced for about 60 minutes tonight. I'd had a glass of wine with my husband at dinner to celebrate the bonu$ he got today, so I was feeling a little woozy when I sat down tonight to practice. I didn't expect a very good practice because I wasn't feeling quite alert enough for a good practice.

Went through scales, arps, and inversions with my eyes closed. Literally. Just resting my eyes, I was. And the inversions sounded a lot better than usual. Usually, I'm scurrying to get the four fingers in the right place each inversion, and tonight I just played through them with a Zen-like calm. Weird. Wonderful, but weird.

I played through Suzuki a couple of times, then moved on to the fugue.

What a great practice. It started off rather slow, but it ended up ... transforming.

My goal for the night was the tail end of measure 24. This is shortly after the bass voice has rejoined the soprano and alto. It's tricky, with the bass holding a note while the alto plays, and then the alto immediately holding a note while the bass plays. Meanwhile the soprano plays a steady Bach-style legato. For the last two notes, the alto rests, and it's harder than you would think, to remember to pick up that alto finger and let the bass and soprano play the last two notes alone.

I had to play through that single beat about twenty times before the passage, with all its holding and resting, started to feel natural.

Of course, I had to REWRITE THE FINGERING in several places ... but I realized something important: the fingering-changes are an adjustment I've made for my hand size. Rather than struggle through an awkward fingering, somehow thinking I'm doing something "advanced" because it "feels difficult," I'm coming up with "easier" fingerings that work best for me. The challenge, then, isn't to hold my hand in weird positions and look strained; it's to hold or rest a note, to play it staccato or legato, using the fingering that feels most natural to my hand.

Duh. Why did it take me so long to figure that one out? No clue.

After playing the final beat of measure 24 twenty or so times, I played the entire measure twenty times. Then I played measures 23 and 24 together twenty times. Then the "section," starting with the second beat of measure 19--you guessed it, twenty times. Then I played through measures 17 through 24 a few times (not twenty--I was starting to get tired!). As with the Liszt, I finally feel like I'm starting to make music with this piece--even though I still have a long way to go.

Something else wonderful happened tonight, though.

OK. I know this piece very well. I can probably hum the soprano, alto, and bass voices each for you (but please, don't ask me to do that!). I have analyzed it, listened to it, played it on my iPod as I've fallen asleep at night. I've learned it voices separately and hands separately, and now I'm learning it hands together. This piece has become a part of me.

So it was strange and refreshing when I played the first beat of measure 23 tonight and was suddenly struck by the most profound-feeling sense of longing. The pathos of those few notes took me by surprise, and I can't begin to explain the yearning that welled up in me. Yearning for what, I don't know. But whenever I played those four notes, I felt ... homesick? nostalgic? sad? romantic? All of those things.

But I wasn't tempted to play it "romantically," with pedal or rubato or anything like that. It's perfect without all of that added stuff. But the longing ... it was something greater than the longing that Romantic pieces sometimes pull up.

Then, while I was playing mm 17-24, I got to the last beat of measure 17, and again ... the yearning. It was so ... delicious, yet so ... piercing. I played it again.

I know. It sounds like I could be writing about sex. Maybe it's akin to sex. Whatever it was, it was powerful.

What was it about these combinations of notes that stirred up such emotions in me? When I first learned these sections, I thought things like, "Oh, that's pretty," or "Hm, that's clever." But now they seemed ... miraculous. And I was struck by the most profound sense of honor, of privilege for having the opportunity, the skill, and the tenacity to be able to participate in the miraculous. To be a part of something that the genius Bach started over 300 years ago.

I know. I'm getting wordy and purple-prosey. I don't care. I'm not above being moved emotionally by music (if I were, I doubt that I'd have much use for music at all!), but I have been approaching the fugue as a series of tasks and challenges. If I could just be driven and dedicated enough, I would get it. I wasn't thinking about emotional impact ... if it came, it would certainly come later, after I had learned the entire piece as an organic whole.

Tonight, all of that work paid off, even if in just a small way, in just two short sections. For a couple of moments, the fugue ceased to be a series of mini-projects and became something transcendent. And I got to be a part of it. Me and George.

It was a good practice.

Tiny Practice

I sneaked into the Inner Sanctum for about twenty minutes this morning to play through Standchen a couple of times. Ahhh ... it is sounding good. If a person who knew nothing about piano were to listen to me, they would be impressed. It still needs a lot of work, but I've definitely moved up a rung with this piece in the last week or so.

No time for Bach ... I'm hoping to make time tonight.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

I Need Two Practice Sessions a Day

Wouldn't that be nice? Wouldn't it be nice if I had a million dollars, too? :)

I practiced for 120 minutes tonight. The time flew by. I started at 8:00, took a break from the Liszt at what I thought was 9:00, and realized that it was already 10:00. You know what they say about when you're having fun ...

Actually, it was a frustrating but ultimately productive practice. Scales and arps sound great. OK, the scales sound great and the arps sound pretty darn good but not great. I need to spend more time doing them in rhythms and focusing on what I'm doing. At a certain speed, it just seems like my fingers are landing where they may, and if I hit the right note it's because I'm lucky. I usually hit the right notes, but I don't feel confident about them. Hm.

Then it was on to the Liszt. Yes, friends, I resisted fugal temptation. I didn't even look at my WTC 1 book. I went straight to Ständchen. Tonight's focus was measures 5 through 26, and more specifically, measures 5 through 16.

Do you remember that scene in Amadeus when the kapellmeister rips out several pages of The Marriage of Figaro while Mozart stands helplessly by, looking shocked? Well, that's how I felt tonight. I erased and re-wrote so much of my previous work; my hands were the businesslike kapellmeister, my mind the hapless Wolfie.

I had to change the fingering again. And again. And again. Every time I found a better fingering, one that didn't stretch my left hand into weird positions, I would play it ... and discover an even better fingering. I'm working really hard to keep my hand soft and to arrange the fingering in a way that allows me to do that. I do not want to induce tingling!

I erased, and erased, and erased, and erased. I wore out my eraser. Really. I had to use a new pencil when it the eraser started to make that bone-chilling squeak of metal rubbing against paper. Yikes!

I re-wrote so much fingering that the paper now feels thin enough to tear. It didn't tear. I hope I won't have to change the fingering anymore. But if I do ... so be it. But I think I've come up with the best fingering for me for measures 5 through 16. I'll focus more on measures 17 through 26 the next time I practice Ständchen. If I had two practice sessions a day, that would be tomorrow, but a more realistic prediction is Thursday night or possibly even Friday. :(

Once I finally figured out the frustrating fingering, I practiced measures 5 through 10 and ended up playing that section ten times each. Then I did the same thing with measures 11 through 16. The good thing about all this repetition is that it helps me to memorize.

After practicing each mini-section, I played measures 1 through 16 through about fifteen more times. The notes were feeling very comfortable in my hands (all that fingering-frustration had a purpose after all!), and I was actually able to focus on dynamics, on making the melody sing out above all the other "stuff" that's going on. That was deeply satisfying. I really felt like I was making music.

I played through measures 17 through 26 once before my 10:00 "break." I forsee a few more fingering changes, but I think I did the brunt of necessary erasing and re-writing tonight. Oh, yeah ... I got so sick of erasing little numbers that I eventually erased my penciled-in scribblings for entire measures, inadvertently erasing my musical analysis notes. Pooh.

I'm too tired now to work on the fugue. I'll get to it tomorrow night. If I have time, I'll work on the prelude, too. It needs more attention than I've been giving it.

All in all, it was a good practice. It had its unpleasant moments, but I finished it up playing the first sixteen measures at level I'm happy with for now.

Geeky Essayist

This morning's work entailed five pages of journaling, a 10-minute rush-write, and two drafts of a 1,000-word essay that grew out of the journaling and the rush-write.

I'm gainfully unemployed, staying at home to write, so essay-writing (creative nonfiction) is, to a great degree, what I'm supposed to be doing. But still ... I can't help but think, "I'm writing an essay and I'm not even in school. I am such a geek."

I'm going to print it out and set it aside for a few hours, then pick it up again this afternoon and work on the third draft. If the third time is the charm, I'll send it off to several local publications and see if any of them will print it and give me money.

If I'm going to be a geeky essayist, I may as well get paid for it, right? :)

Monday, August 7, 2006

Monday, August 7

Yes, it has been a very long time since my last practice.

I worked for about 70 minutes tonight. Did the usual warmups--my, but those scales and arps sounded good! I flew through two sets of each, worked on Suzuki for about two minutes, and moved on to the fugue.

I kid you not. I played my six and a half measures from memory, perfectly, five times in a row. After five times I started to make little mistakes here and there ... but five times! I think I kept replaying it because I didn't believe my ears.

I worked on two and a half more measures tonight. I now have nine measures of the fugue. The material I worked on tonight wasn't quite as difficult because one of the voices steps out for a short while, and I'm only working with two voices instead of three. But even when the third voice comes back in, it's not too bad.

I played those nine measures through about fifteen times. They sounded OK the first time, pretty good by the tenth time, and great by the fifteenth time.

Then, since my husband is home for the first time since early June, I asked if he'd like to hear the Liszt. (That's code for, "Hey you. Listen to this. Now.") I played it through. It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't any worse than what I'd played for Deborah last Wednesday. I was thrilled that I didn't seem to have "lost" anything in the days I haven't practiced. I'll spend more time actually practicing the Liszt tomorrow.

Why haven't I practiced? I had piano on Thursday afternoon, then left Friday morning for a (piano-less) retreat and didn't get home until Sunday evening. Then the Hubster came home shortly after that, and I wasn't about to practice piano when I had a Hubster at home for the first time in months. That was yesterday. So tonight's my first practice since Thursday.

It was a good practice, not very long, but productive and ego-boosting.

Four Miles!

I just have to tell the world: I ran four miles today! Without stopping!

I think that's the farthest I've ever run in my life. Actually, it was more of a jog, but still ... I stayed steady at 6.0 mph for the whole run, except for the last couple of minutes when I slowed down to begin cool-down.

The first mile was at a 1% incline, the second at a 2% incline, the third at a 1% incline, and the fourth at a 0.5% incline. (This was all on the treadmill. It's way too hot to run outside.)

I feel really good. I love running. My knee hasn't hurt, except for once early in my "training." I let up for a couple days, and then it was fine. Last week, the outside of my lower shin ached a little bit, so I took a day off and it stopped hurting. On the trail, we say that muscle and joint pain are OK as long as a different thing hurts each day, and the same muscle/joint isn't constantly hurting.

That's been my experience so far with running.

I love what running is doing to my body. You know that cellulite stuff that women get on the backs of their upper thighs when they turn, oh, mid-thirtyish? Running makes it go away!

And I ran FOUR MILES today!!!

The endorphins must be humming through my system because I feel really good.

Writing Projects

I went to a retreat this weekend. It was called a "musicians' retreat" for our church, but it was really a choir retreat. Since I'm a musician who is not in the choir and doesn't even work with the choir, I ended up with a lot of time to myself. This is good. I needed quiet time.

I did a lot of writing (journaling) and read through TNP, the novel I started last summer. I wrote 217 pages, and then school started, and that was that. I've been scared to approach it again because I figured it would seem old, dusty, and tired, and that I wouldn't be excited about it anymore. After all, the momentum on it ended a year ago. But I used the retreat weekend to read through the first fifty or so pages of it.

Not bad. Parts are really dorky and need to be re-written or edited out, but those parts connect sections that I think have some promise. I started getting excited about the story. It had been so long, I couldn't remember everything that happened, so it was almost (not quite) like reading something that was new to me.

Do I start working on it again? I think I might. Meanwhile, I have several other ideas that I'd like to pursue, now that I have time. I'm going to do some sketching and re-sketching this morning and decide which idea I want to pursue in earnest--the half-baked TNP, or one of several other ideas I've been thinking about.

Also on the agenda is a tutoring job and the editing job. I didn't work on either this weekend, and I really need to get to work on both!

I also need to e-mail some freelance-writing contacts. I have a job in the works that could be worth quite a chunk of change, so I'm going to pursue it more today.

I also have an almost-completely-baked essay that's just about ready to send out into the big, bad world. I want to do finishing touches on it, then see if I can get someone out there to put it in print (and pay me a few dollars for it!).

At some point, I'm going to practice my several-days-neglected piano and run four miles. (This is why I want to be a full-time freelancer: so I can work my metaphorical butt off on different writing, editing, and teaching projects, but still have time to practice piano and work my literal butt off on the treadmill.)

The Writing Life is beginning. It's exciting, but now I need to quit blogging and get to work.

Sunday, August 6, 2006

I'm Not a Music Critic, but I'm Critiquing Anyway

I had the strangest opera experience Saturday night. I am no music critic, and I am no expert on opera, but I'm going to give you my impressions anyway. :) (Patty, please forgive me for pretending to be a hated music critic!)

My dad and I went to Brevard Music Center to see the the Janiec Opera Company's last BMC performance of the summer: Carmen. Before the opera began, a voice came over the PA and said the usual stuff--turn off your cell phones, there will be two intermissions, etc. But then the voice kept talking. It mentioned something about cigarette smoke, so I thought, "Oh. They'll be smoking onstage, and they want to let us know in case anyone should take offense and/or choke to death." But then the voice kept talking some more. Everyone quieted down to listen.

Apparently, the woman cast as Carmen was allergic to cigarette smoke, so she wouldn't be singing her part. A mezzo soprano in the orchestra pit would be singing it. The woman cast in the leading role would be lip-synching.

Huh?

My dad and I both thought the announcement said that the lip-synching would be for the first act only, so that was a relief. Even if the lip-synching was bad, at least it would only be for one of the four acts.

The orchestra, conducted by Steven Smith, played the overture. The music was fast and furious and seemed to fly right past. It was over before I knew it. The curtain came up. The setting was muted--a pale gold wall, a mossy sea green banister, a cream-colored wall, and a TABAC sign hanging above the singers. Robin Vest was the set designer. I liked the set.

The Carmen character doesn't come out until several minutes into the first act. The first time I ever saw Carmen performed (in 1991), all of the cigarette girls were slim and beautiful, and since the men were turning away from them to see the sexy CARMEN, I naturally expected Carmen to be this lasciviously attractive woman. The singer who played Carmen, however, was short, squat, and rather homely. Of course, any opera audience must have a willing suspension of disbelief. Some performances, however, require a bit more willingness than others.

I wondered ... would tonight's Carmen look the part? I hoped she would.

Tonight's Carmen, Sophie Roland, was spot-on. Raunch personified, her character swiveled across the stage, leered at the guys, and conveyed the raw sexual power you would expect of a Carmen. There was only one problem ... she was lip-synching. I'm not sure who was the actual mezzo soprano, but I think it was Audrey Gamez. Whoever it was, she sang beautifully ... but the lip-synching was rather distracting.

It was painfully obvious. Sometimes Onstage Carmen would close her mouth while Orchestra Pit Carmen kept singing. Sometimes Orchestra Pit Carmen would sing an "oo" note while Onstage Carmen grinned or leered. Try to grin or leer and sing "oooooo." You can't do it. Unless you lip-synch it.

Another thing, not immediately obvious, annoyed me about the lip-synching, and that was the sound itself, and its lack of ... direction. Acoustically speaking. It was like this: Orchestra Pit Carmen was standing still and singing into a microphone (I could tell because I sometimes heard that popping sound that an aspirated "p" makes whenever it's puffed into a mike). Onstage Carmen, meanwhile, was slinking around the stage, straddling things, turning this way and that. You would expect the voice quality to change--when she's at stage right, her voice should sound different from when she's at stage left. When she's facing one way, it will sound slightly different from when she's facing another way. But, because Orchestra Pit Carmen wasn't moving and sang into a microphone, the voice just stayed steady. This effect was not so apparent at first, but it was ultimately more distracting than the obvious lip-synching flubs that went on.

An intermission followed the first act. My dad and I discussed the opera so far, and we said we were glad the lip-synching was only for the first act.

Act Two. Carmen struts onto the stage, leering. She opens her mouth to sing. Familiar voice. Ten seconds into the act, I realize she's still lip-synching.

Aarrgghh!

Several aspects of the opera disappointed me; usually, BMC's performances are really wonderful. The others all sang their own parts and did a fine job, but the casting seemed kind of odd. The leading man was a very portly black man named Allen Pinkney, Jr. He had an amazing and powerful tenor voice, but he didn't look like the strapping, handsome Spanish soldier one would expect a Don Jose to look like. Willing suspension of disbelief. Of course, BMC is a summer program, an educational experience for young musicians, and not a wholly professional thing. But still ... The leading woman looked the part but didn't sing, and the leading man sang beautifully but didn't look the part. Strange.

The music was good. But not good enough. At the end of the second act, the curtain dropped for the second intermission. I turned to my dad and said, "Ready to go?"

"Yep," he said, and we left.

We were both amused and disappointed. The performance left much to be desired. And it was so strange, having the character of Carmen lip-synch. I mean, she's the main character! Did they not know in advance that she was allergic to cigarette smoke? Couldn't they smoke fake cigarettes or something? Could they have used an understudy?

I don't know. Maybe the understudy was sick and Orchestra Pit Carmen had never practiced being Onstage Carmen. Whatever the reason, the result was unfortunate. There were a lot of talented people on the stage, in the orchestra, and behind the scenes tonight, but their efforts didn't add up to a satisfying performance for this listener.

I'll never make a good music critic. This is the closest I could come to a scathing review, y'all.

Next year they're doing La Boheme. Maybe next year will be better.

Tar Heel Tavern is Up!

Don't forget to drop by the Tar Heel Tavern, hosted this week by Billy the Blogging Poet, and read what's on the minds of North Carolina bloggers this week.

Friday, August 4, 2006

Decision Made. Dilemma Resolved.

I did it. I picked Solution A. I can't give out a bunch of details yet until I've talked to the people involved, but I just wanted to share the news. I feel riddled with guilt, but I guess that's better than feeling eaten-up with bitterness later on.

Thanks to everyone for your input.

Day Off

I had a good day yesterday. It was a non-teaching, non-editing day. In other words, I gave myself a day off. Wanna hear about it?

I woke up, and the first thing I saw was my cat, Hideway, staring at me from about four inches away. Yes. Open eyes. See big cat face. So I petted her and generally spoiled her rotten for a few minutes before getting out of bed. It's so easy to get out of bed in the morning now that I'm taking sleeping pills.

Fast-forward through the boring stuff to Coffee Zone in Waynesville. I sat at Coffee Zone for about two hours, writing in my notebook (I don't call it a "journal" because I don't like the word "journal") and reading The Forest for the Trees (you know I'm going through a block when I start reading a bunch of books on writing). It's one of the more interesting writing books. In the chapter "Touching Fire," she writes about how addictions and mental illness inhibit our ability to write. I've touched enough fire this past year, thankyouverymuch. I'm ready to start writing again.

I came home and did some chores. It was a weird feeling, to do chores. This summer is the first time in my married life that I've actually had time to do chores. When I talked to Hubster on the phone last night, he thanked me for vacuuming. (Ah yes ... the romantic love-talk of married people!)

I practiced piano a bit since I had a lesson yesterday afternoon, then I went to the library. I love the library. I practically live at the library. I returned an awful "bestseller" that I had tried (unsuccessfully) to read last week, paid my massive overdue fine, and checked out about eight novels.

Now, there is no way I will be able to read eight books between now and when the books are due in two weeks. And, even though I visit the library three or four times a week, I will most certainly turn the books in a week or so late and have to pay a huge fine. Why do I do this? I have no clue. I've done the same thing ever since I was six and would carry out stacks of books as tall as I was. Only I read them all when I was six.

I headed up to Asheville around 1:00. My piano lesson in Asheville wasn't until 4:30, but I had some errands to run and didn't know how long they would take. They didn't take very long. I ended up with two hours to kill before piano started.

I drove through UNC-Asheville, hoping to find a parking spot so I could sneak into the one of the practice rooms, but the campus was packed. So I found myself at Coffee Shop #2 for the day, Gourmet Perks. I'd never been there before.

Gourmet Perks is in an unassuming-looking little building on Merrimon Avenue, and it's easy to miss these days because of all the road work going on. I had to maneuver through a few knocked-down orange cones to get into the parking lot. On the front of the building is a huge mural of ethnic-looking faces that reminded me of Sesame Street. I could hear the music (I'm assuming it was alternative-type fare) blaring inside before I ever walked in.

I liked it. I walked in and immediately got good vibes. I got my coffee and sat down at one of the tables, its surface clearly painted by some young Asheville artist. I looked around. It was very colorful. It reminded me of the coffee shop that I wanted to open, once upon a time in a pre-Starbucks age.

So I sat with my coffee and wrote about five pages (part of it about the Dilemma), then opened Novel #1 of my library adventure: Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. I read his novel Atonement several years ago and loved it, but I've never read anything else by him. I always wanted to, but never got around to it. So now I'm getting around to it.

Two hours went by pretty quickly, and I got to piano at 4:30. We worked on a technique problem I was having with the fugue, and then I had some questions about the Liszt. "I can actually play through the whole thing now," I said, and Deborah said, "OK. Go ahead and play it through." So I did. She walked around the house, getting things done (I find that I play better if no one is sitting right there behind me), and I played.

When I finished, Deborah pronounced it "beautiful," and then we went back and worked on some fingering and pedaling issues. It's nowhere near perfect, but I'm definitely past the "just learning" stage now. It's been a long road, and it feels good to be where I am with this piece.

After piano, we had sushi and went on a walk, then I headed over to Barley's Taproom in downtown Asheville to meet Hubster and some of his camp staff. I just stayed for a little while, having already eaten and not being in the mood for alcohol. I kissed Hubster good-bye, headed home, showered, took my sleeping pills, and crawled into bed with Amsterdam. Hideaway joined me, as always, and I read until I fell asleep.

Not a bad day at all.

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Dilemma Time

I'm in the middle of a dilemma. If I decide on Solution A, then things will be better for me but will hurt inconvenience several other people. If I decide on Solution B, it will make more people happy and will probably even help some people, but there's a good chance that I'll become bitter and resentful.

The people who care about me are saying to take care of myself and choose Solution A.

I have no problem with Solution A, but I would rather help people than hurt them, so I'm leaning toward Solution B--even though it means I will probably lose out in the long run.

Maybe I have a martyr complex.

So, what do y'all think I should do?

I know. I should pray about it.

I'll let y'all know what I decide.

Ten Reasons I Love Learning "Ständchen"

1. I get to use an umlaut every time I write it down.

2. It's a beautiful piece, meant to play for an audience. I imagine the ladies swooned when Liszt played this one for them. I love making such big, beautiful sounds come out of the piano.

3. It's a technically challenging piece for me. Liszt's music in general is technically challenging, and most of it is beyond my abilities. I can learn this one, but it's definitely "stretching" me. And that's good.

4. It's based on a poem set to music by Schubert, and I love both poetry and Schubert.

5. There are many different versions and interpretations of this piece out there: translations of the poetry, tenors singing the Schubert version, pianists playing the Liszt version, and other instrumentalists playing versions of the Liszt version. It's interesting to hear it in its many forms and know that I'm participating in a much larger tradition, in my own small way.

6. It's fascinating to see how Schubert's musical interpretation mirrors the words, and how Liszt's composition takes the words into account--even though it's written for piano only. For example, in the section where the "speaker" would be saying, "Can you hear the nightingales?", the piano plays the "words" in a low register--quasi violoncello. Then, there is an echo of the theme, high above ... like birds. Then, in after the "singer" would have sung "Trembling, I await you," the piano plays several rolled chords, which imply a sort of trembling. (OK, maybe I'm just being an English major and reading things into this ...)

8. The technical challenges are making me a better pianist. It's not all that easy to play three notes with a single hand and make one of those notes sing out above all the others. This piece has a lot of that. There are also pedaling challenges. I'm to use the sustaining pedal liberally, yet I must avoid losing the music in a wash of pedaled sound. Challenging.

9. It's an odd (but good) experience to work on Liszt while working on (and after having worked on) lots of Bach. The techniques for each are so different in so many ways. I feel like I'm expanding my abilities and my musical sensitivity by working on both at the same time.

10. "Ständchen" is just plain sexy.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Tuesday, August 1

I have no idea how long I practiced today. I had a rare leisurely day and managed to practice on and off all day ... I probably got about 150 minutes in, give or take a few minutes.

I didn't do Scales O' Day today. I just went through all of 'em, major and minor, four octaves, parallel and contrary motion--kind of like I used to do in college every day, minus the contrary motion. For arpeggios, I did a G major and Eb-minor. The arps sound great as long as I keep the metronome at 60. When I go above 60, the quarter-note contrary-motion arpeggios don't sound so good. I have to "warm them up" at 60 before I can play them well at 63.

This morning, I worked on the C#-major prelude for about a half-hour. I need to quit telling myself that piece is easy. It's not that easy. It's just easy when compared to the fugue.

I devoted the bulk of my today's practice time to Liszt (finally!). I can now play through the whole piece. I also spent quite a bit of time writing in the English translation of the song lyrics (Liszt's "Standchen" is a transcription of a Schubert song by the same title, and it means "Serenade" in English). Then I practiced, thinking about the lyrics while I played. Very interesting. I want to write more about that, but I don't have time at the moment.

I spent about a half hour on the fugue. My arms felt fine for the entire practice, but my right arm started to tingle again after working on the fugue for about 20 minutes. I switched to LH practice after that. This tingling-arm thing is really concerning me. I'm supposed to go to the doctor next week anyway, so I'll ask about it. I'll also ask my piano teacher about it at my lesson tomorrow. And maybe I should lay off of the fugue for a while.

Gotta run ... I'll write more on the Liszt later on!

Ständchen

You wouldn't believe how many Google searches on "English translation of Ständchen" lead to this blog. So I'm going to to the Google-searchers of the world a favor and include it here. I hope I'm not breaking any copyright rules. If I am, someone let me know, and I'll take it down.

"Ständchen" is the name of the Liszt piece I'm working on. Before Liszt got his magical hands on it, "Ständchen" was a song by Franz Schubert. And before Schubert got his hands on it, "Ständchen" was a poem by a German poet named Ludwig Rellstab.

I found the translation here, along with English translations for several other Schubert songs, or lieder. The site says this after the "Ständchen" translation: "text: Ludwig Rellstab, music: Franz Schubert (1797-1828). translation: a.l" Here it is ...

"Ständchen" ("Serenade")

My songs quietly implore you
through the night;
down to the silent wood
my love, come to me!

The tree tops whisper
in the light of the moon;
Don't be afraid, my love,
no-one will observe us.

Can you hear the nightingales?
Oh! They implore you,
their sweet lament
pleads with you on my behalf.

They understand the yearning I feel,
they know love's torture,
with their silvery notes
they touch every soft heart

Let them touch yours, too,
sweet love: hear my plea!
Trembling I await you,
come, bring me bliss!