Saturday, July 20, 2013



I may have a new favorite animal.

My daughters and I had the chance to spend a day in Chicago after our week at the Suzuki Institute, and they wanted to see animals more than anything else.

So animals we saw. Our day was devoted to wonder.

Giraffes, for instance: watch them move. I’m not a physics person, but I can recognize the feat of balance between neck and legs and body that makes up a giraffe. A reminder that things you don’t think can be graceful are in fact very much so.

Sea lions: again, it’s their movement. Watching them swim past, upside down—don’t they make you want to move through your world in the same way? So at ease. And upside down. Because why not?

Seahorses: they kind of make me think unicorns could be real, too.

Lions: I might think I've gotten over their strength and power by now. But then—oh—I actually catch sight of one.

Fennec fox: oversized ears—I'm not over cute, either.

And then that afternoon, on our day-in-Chicago-devoted-to-wonder, we discovered that a Japanese sea cucumber has a tongue like snowflakes. That there’s such a thing as a jeweled anemone. That, in fact, jeweled anenomes can blanket a surface like tiny crazy pink space-flowers. And maybe I imagined things like that existed, but when I find out they actually do…

These are things so delicate and extravagant I don’t know what to do with myself.

I’m thankful for things like that—the ones I think should exist but as I go through life forget about, or convince myself aren't real. And then they turn up in the world and show me how foolish-and-not-foolish I am.
I love that.

They are especially beautiful, I think, because I recognize them, and I’ve been waiting.

And then one day there they are.

When we remind each other of these things, or point them out, or prove that they exist, it’s no trifle. They make me hopeful for other things as well—the ones I sometimes dare to hope for, or maybe don’t dare but wish I had the courage to.

So here. My newest favorite animal:


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Friday, July 12, 2013

Double Act

a comic pairing in which humor is derived from the uneven relationship between two partners…Often one of the duo members, the straight man…is portrayed as reasonable and serious, and the other one, the funny man…is portrayed as funny, less educated or less intelligent, silly, or unorthodox.

There were a couple of jugglers at the library recently, special guests performing for our local summer reading program. A double act: straight man, funny girl. At one point the man described how he learned to juggle, demonstrating with  bean bags. His partner, following along with his story, point-by-point, juggled scarves. Everybody laughed, because of course it’s ridiculous to juggle scarves. But it was also beautiful. I don’t think I was the only one who got caught up in the magic of it.

When I was a girl I had a large gauzy teal scarf from India, given to me by an aunt. I loved throwing it up in the air, or letting it stream out behind me while I twirled or ran, watching the flow of it, endless variations of color and motion.

Now, I am so used to playing the straight man, myself, that I forget sometimes there are other options. But watching that woman juggle scarves—it made me believe there’s more than one way to be the funny girl.
Blissfully being your odd, odd self, maybe even to the frustration of the people around you? I know how to do that.
It was a happy little moment, counting myself among the scarf-jugglers.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

10 Bits of (Suzuki Institute) Magic

1. "I'll try"
2.  Watching Middle chop in Fiddling class
3.  Work = fun
4.  Youngest's gusto-filled up-bow accents
5.  Fresh ways of seeing and hearing
6. Being together
7.  Music that makes you laugh out loud
8. Sitting in the middle of an orchestra fortissimo
9. "Devil Went Down to Georgia"
10. Friendships

Oh, and 11--because we can't forget the frogs.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

In Case We Forget Why We're Here

Important and wonderful as all the violining is this week, there's other fabulousness, as well. New friends, new experiences. And tadpoles. Lots of them. Tadpoles that have been turning into frogs, and seem to want to be found and held and named. Their importance is not be underestimated; visiting them has become part of our routine this week.

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Monday, July 1, 2013


I am at the Chicago Suzuki Institute with Middle and Youngest this week. The week began with a Play-In, a staple of institutes, festivals, and workshops. Neither a class nor a performance, it is a chance for everybody--of all levels and ages--to get together to play the music we have in common.

My head is full, watching.

Thinking about how hearing a large group of children playing "Twinkle" still makes me want to cry. Thinking about how much this music is a part of me. Thinking about how glad I am my girls get to experience this.

And--honestly--feeling humbled.

Because I don't feel ready for this week. Pretty much every insecurity you could imagine or invent has swept over me today. And this is a Suzuki environment, which is about nurturing, and non-competitiveness, and developing more noble human beings through music (not just the kids but the parents, too.) I know that all these thoughts roiling inside are not what this is supposed to be about. Which adds to the mess in my head.

But then there's this: my girls are standing on a stage right now, playing with a large group of violinists they've never met. They're engaged and having fun and learning and I get to sit back and listen to the fabulous teachers here draw the work and the music and all that other good stuff out of them. It's all so alive and I want to absorb everything I can.

The accompanist begins the introduction to "Humoresque" by Dvorak, and Youngest looks out at me. Do I know this one? I shake my head no and she sits down to listen. She's heard the piece so much she feels like she can play it. Later in the evening she will walk through the cafeteria whistling a piece she fights me tooth and nail about reviewing. Middle loves orchestra so much she could burst. Both girls are excited to play.

We are here. We get to be here. All the insecurities are still here, too, but whatever. As my mom texted me earlier in the day, "That's why you're there." She would know, she did this, too. (And if you ask, she might even tell you what a beast I was about practicing.)

I know this about myself: when I can sit with the insecurity and imperfection, and be honest about it but not let it eat me alive, there is room to absorb and learn and grow. Much more, I'm sure, than if I felt I had it all together, all figured out, all neatly-handled.

I also know this: every family here has a story behind it--difficulties and triumphs, weaknesses and strengths. But we're all here together for this. What can we do besides play it in--play the music into our heads and hearts, and let it sink deep?

Eyes and ears wide open.

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