(Over)view from the rooftops of Paris

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I’ve just had the pleasure of spending a couple free days in Paris between performances with the OPL at the Opéra Comique.  Our Sunday show fell on my birthday, so Kerry and I stayed afterwards and indulged in an Ethiopian feast at one of our favorite restaurants in the Latin Quarter.  We found a very cute studio through the airbnb website (if you don’t know it, it’s a bit like Craigslist, but you are better protected from scams.)  The view out our window (7th floor, luckily with elevator, which is by no means a given here!) is lovely –  a double rainbow greeted us upon arrival, crowning the Jardin des Plantes right across the street.  Yesterday the master craftsmen at L’olifant Paris whipped my horn back into shape and gave me the opportunity to try some beautiful horns and mouthpieces.

It seems a good place and time to bring a little perspective to the goings-on of the past and future couple of months, especially because I haven’t written a blog for a good long while.  The “doing”/”being” ratio has tipped more to the “doing” side, as it often does when I don’t pay attention to seeking the inner stillness and reflection necessary to feel whole.  Mind you, I love pretty much everything I have been doing lately – playing great music with the orchestra every week, preparing and presenting concerts with the American Horn Quartet, taking Pilates lessons, going to plays and dance productions, and all the normal bits of everyday living.  A huge bonus lately has been to have so much time together with my husband, sadly lacking this time last year with all the traveling.

Lately, though, I’ve found myself walking around in a bit of a daze, not taking everything in.  Other than while playing music, when the habit of years of laser-like focus kick in, the edges seem a bit blurry to scenery, conversations, even the taste of food (for those of you who know me well, that’s a clear sign that something is amiss!)  Even this morning, I had originally planned to go to a museum but feared just drifting by the exhibits without appreciating them.  I go through this cycle often, not realizing it’s happening for a while.  This classic Far Side cartoon says it beautifully:

 

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The trick – the art – to living is in balance (being married to a Libra will teach you a thing or two about that as well!) – especially that between the inner and outer life.  The next few weeks are just as activity-laden as the previous ones, including more performances in Paris, an AHQ tour to the States, Götterdämmerung on Wagner tuba when I return, then brass quintet rehearsals and a Britten Serenade performance etc….  But I am going to do my best to find the inner stillness and perception to be fully present in the big and small moments, including the ones that don’t have a website link attached. But there just may be a double rainbow in the offering.

 

 

 

 

The Zulu Hitchhiker

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Did you ever find yourself in a situation that seemed to be trying to tell you something, but you never discovered its secret? This encounter, during our vacation in South Africa this past April, remains an enigma.

The day after visiting the Anglo-Zulu battlefields of Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift (a few hours’ drive northwest of Durban), Kerry and I set off in our barely adequate rental car from the lodge (think serious 4X4 territory in a Hyundai!) We’d been sleeping in a traditional Zulu beehive hut perched on a ridge overlooking an astonishing valley, where monkeys scampered around on our straw roof and the surrounding vegetation, no civilization in sight. But the middle of nowhere is always somewhere to someone, right? We bade farewell to the friendly manager of the lodge, Bruce, and his associate, Naya, crunching and creeping along the pothole-ridden dirt roads leading back to the “highway” (I say this in the most euphemistic of terms, where pavement was an unexpected and rare blessing.) About 10 kilometers (7 miles) down the gravel path past Elandskraal, we saw a pretty young woman, dressed in brightly colored fabrics, hair tied up in a scarf, holding a pink pocketbook, walking down the road. We had encountered numerous hitchhikers over the preceding days, but up to this point, we hadn’t stopped. On impulse, I suggested we give her a ride, at least up to the main road, where she might be able to catch a bus to her destination. Wherever that might be.
We came to a halt. The woman jogged over to our car and let herself in the back seat, and I asked her where she was headed. At first she just smiled and said nothing . So I pulled out the map we were using and showed it to her, asking, “Are you going to Dundee? Are you going to Ladysmith?” and pointing at each place as I said it. And she stared at the map as if I had given her a bowl of spaghetti and asked her the circumference of the Earth! I inquired about Dundee again since it was the nearest town, but she shook her head. Finally, we heard (I think this is what she said) “Near Ladysmith,” which was 60 km away and the direction we were heading anyway. So she sat very quietly in the back seat with a small smile on her face, and we drove on. I speak a few languages and get by in a few others, but Zulu is not among them…. Every once in a while, I would ask her in English where she wanted us to take her. She didn’t seem to understand, but we managed to exchange names – hers sounded like “Nympha.” It slowly dawned on us that she may never have seen a map before, but she seemed happy with our route. Kerry drove down a rather bumpy (but, wonder of wonders, paved) road leading towards Ladysmith, stopping now and then to avoid the cows and goats wandering in and out of our lane. Eventually I had the idea of calling the lodge and asking Naya, who spoke Zulu, to translate for me and find out where we could take our passenger. I reached Bruce, who put me through to Naya, and then handed my iPhone to the back seat to have Nympha talk to her. At first, she seemed reluctant to take it, then finally put it to her ear. As she spoke to the woman at the lodge, her whole expression changed. She looked irritated, unhappy, tense. After a moment she passed the phone back to me. Bruce was on the other end. “She says she wants to go to Dundee,” (we had just traveled 25 minutes in the wrong direction!) and so we started to turn the car around. Suddenly Nympha grew agitated, put her hand on Kerry’s shoulder, and pointed forward, in the direction we were already going. We didn’t know what to do, but ended up turning around and driving back anyway. It seemed worse to whisk her 60 km away from home because of a misunderstanding. We all sat silently, driving east again, back where we had come from, past the livestock, past the scrubby landscape, and pulled over at the intersection with the main road to Dundee, where a few other people were standing around and where traffic came by in all directions. I pointed north and said, “You want to go to Dundee? It’s that way, I hope you get a ride! Good luck! Goodbye!” Our passenger got out of the car slowly, looking at me with an unfathomable expression in her eyes, then turned away. We drove off, back towards Ladysmith again, wondering what had just happened. We imagined various scenarios. We imagined she was just enjoying the ride – a friend told us that Europeans never pick up Zulu hitchhikers. We imagined she hoped we would take her in and give her a job and a new home. We imagined a secret lover for her in Ladysmith. We wondered if she was running away from an abusive father or husband. But all she had to do was to tell Naya at the lodge that she wanted to go to Ladysmith, or wherever, and we would have taken her with us. Then we asked ourselves if picking Nympha up, driving west then backtracking, had taken us out of the path of danger, of a traffic accident. Or if it led to an encounter that changed her life. Or if it was just weird and puzzling and meant nothing. It felt all the more surreal, discussing it in our high-rise Durban beachfront hotel room that evening, overlooking the Indian Ocean and surrounded by creature comforts.

We will never know, we can never know – and we will probably never see our Zulu hitchhiker again. So why can’t I stop thinking about it, why do I insist on assigning meaning and mystery to a random encounter? Or was it random at all?

11 New Year’s resolutions for 2011

Every once in a while, I’ll make New Year’s resolutions – not every year, but when I do, I tend to take them seriously. Here is my list for the coming year:

1) Improve my spoken French

2) Train for a half-marathon

3) Develop a comfortable, reliable high E

4) Do more things by telephone, rather than always resorting to emails and text messages

5) Spend more time with Kerry (make sure I’m home enough between gigs and tours!)

6) Keep better contact with my brothers

7) Continue the momentum with my chamber music ensembles

8) Make more time for Reiki – treatments, meditations, teaching

9) Attend interesting seminars and workshops, like the sweat lodge I participated in last year

10) Do a better job collecting frequent flyer miles instead of remembering my card somewhere in-flight and never doing anything about it.

11) Do more improvising on the horn 

Also, I would like to share a link to a fantastic article from one of my favorite newsletters, The Good News Network, entitled Eleven Things to Give Up in 2011. It’s all about being more honest with yourself and others, getting rid of your dramas such as guilt, martyrdom, perfectionism. We so often slip into these behaviors as a matter of habit, and though we may only do these things in small ways, they can sabotage our lives and rob us of vital energy and enthusiasm. Please have a look. http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/most-popular/11-things-to-give-up-in-2011.html

Piece of ancient family history

My cousin Linda has been doing genealogical research for some years now for the Hord family (Hord is my maiden name and therefore my patrilineal ancestry) and has recently come into possession of a volume entitled “Genealogy of the Hord Family” by Rev. Arnold Harris Hord, Philadelphia, copyright 1897.  His research confirms the work my Aunt Lois had done many years ago – with the common ancestor who first came to America (John Hord, son of Sir Thomas Hord, Knight of Cote in Bampton, County Oxford) to the Virginia colony in the late 17th century.  It’s quite exciting to me to read these histories.  The earliest references are from the year 1215, and the Hords are said to have been Norsemen who settled in England before that time.  The raven, that sacred symbol of many Scandinavian peoples, is still in my family’s coat of arms. The 1215 reference is about a gift Henry de Hord made to King John.  Later generations were knights, esquires, barristers (one was Attorney General during the reign of Henry VII), Sheriffs of Salop (what is now known as Shropshire) – and there was even one murderer in the 14th century.  Luckily he was pardoned by King Edward III because of his wartime service to the Earl of Stafford, but he fell eventually in Burgundy, among the English caught up in the fray during the time of Joan of Arc.  John Hord, our first American ancestor, was involved in the rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth against James II, and those who were not executed chose to make their fortunes in the New World.  Several members of the family seem to have been engaged in the rebellion, and good old Sir Thomas was imprisoned in Oxford Castle for a time after the defeat at the Battle of Sedgemoor.

I would like to share one lovely passage written to an ancestor, Alan Hord of the Middle Temple, by his brother, the Rev. Edmund Hord (apparently  many of them were lawyers and clergymen as well as landed gentry) during the realm of Henry VIII.  It seems the King needed more money for his military campaigns against the French and the Scots and decided the Church was a good place to go knocking.  Rev. Hord had little choice but to comply, as resistance to such requests in the time of Cromwell often meant torture on the rack, or worse.  The original of the letter can be found in this collection.

THE HORD FAMILY IN ENGLAND.
EDMUND HORD. In All Soul’s College, Oxford, are these arms : Or, on a chief a Cornish chough ppr. over which was written, Edm. Horcl Juris Canonis Doctor.’ He became Fellow of this house 1504 and was a benefactor thereto. (Gutch’s Oxford,’ 111,30.) June 10, 1510, for the degree of D.C.L. (Doctor Canon Law) inley alia (among other things) supplicated Edm. Hoorde, Batchelor of the Civil Law of All Soul’s College, some time Principal of Greek
Hall, afterward Principal of Burnell’s Inn, alias London College. (Wood’s Fasti Oxon.’)
May 25, 1513. Edmund Hord, of All Soul’s College, admitted Doctor of Canon Law. About this time he was a noted advocate in the Court of the Arches and Procurator of the Charter-house near London ibid (in the same place). At the dissolution of Hinton Charter-house near Bath in 1540, Edmund Hord, the Prior, was assigned a pension of 44 pounds. In Ellis’sOriginal-Letters,’ 2nd series, 1827, volume iv. page 130, is a letter from him dated at that place, To hys brother Alan Horde in the Medylle Tempulle.’
This letter, from the prior of a Carthusian monastery to his brother, probably explains the feeling of a large portion of the heads of religious houses at the time of the suppression.  They were called upon to give up that Which was not theirs to give,’ – that which was dedicated to the Almighty for service to be done to his honor continually, and limited in its distribution to deeds of charity.  They yielded to necessity. Willis says that Henton was surrendered to the king by the prior and nineteen monks, March 31, 1539, –
“In owr Lord Jhesu shall be your salutation. And where ye marvelle that I and my brotherne do nott frelye and voluntnrilie geve and surrendure upe owr House at the mocyone off the Kyngs Commissinars but stonde styffe (and as ye thynke obstenatelye in owr opynion) trulye Brothere I marvel1 gretlye that ye thinke soo ; but rather that ye wolde have thowght us lyght and hasty in gevyn upe that thynge whyche ys not owrs “to geve, but dedicate to Allmyghtye Gode for service to be done to hys honoure contynuallye, with othor many goode dedds of charite whiche daylye be done in thye Home to owr Christen neybors. And consideryng that ther ys no cause gevyn by us why the Howse shull be putt downe, but that the service of Gode, religious conversacion off’ the bretherne, hospitalite, almes deddis, with all other owr duties be as well observyde in this poore House as in any religious Howse in thys Realme or in Fraance ; whiche we have trustyde that the Kynges Grace wolde considere. But by cause that ye wrytte off the Kyngs hye displeasure and my Lorde Prevy Sealis, who ever hath byn my especialle good Lorde, and I truste yette wyll be, I wyll endevere my selffe, as much as I maye, to perswade my brotherne to a comfformyte in thys matere; soo that the Kyngs Hynes nor my Sayd good Lorde shall have eny cause to be displeside with us; trustyng that my poor brothern (whiche knowe not where to have theme lyvynge) shall be charitable looke upon. Thus our Lord Jhesu preserve you in grace.
E.Hord
Henton X. die ffebruarii
To hys brother Alen Horde in Medylle Tempulle dd.”

Looking back, looking forward

It seems appropriate that in a decade of my life with such a heavy emphasis on travel, I should be writing this blog from a cafe in Brussels-Midi train station, fresh from Luxembourg and on my way to a project here and in Lille for the rest of the week. It’s also the day before my 40th birthday. This blog originated in the desire to chronicle in some fashion the many “indulgences,” the rich abundance of experience my life has brought me, in these first four decades. On the train, I was reading a book that a friend recently gave me, about the four principles of creation, the four things we came to Earth to experience: love, health & well-being, abundance, and creation, especially the knowledge that we create our own reality, “not some of it, or most of it, but ALL of it!” as the author of the book proclaims. Sometimes this seems a ridiculous idea, especially in challenging times or in the instances when we don’t feel we are in the right place doing the right thing. Yet, when I examine the events of my personal history on a deep level, I see how true this has proven to be. The times that have felt the most tumultuous, the beginning of my 30’s for example, have since revealed themselves to be key in the direction my life took in response to those challenges. It is a lesson I have continued to learn, over and over again.

One of the greatest joys in my life is the journey that playing the horn has provided me – especially in the way my ensembles have enabled me to travel around the world and spread the vision of healing through music, through performance and teaching master classes… accessing a level of emotion and symmetry, gently bringing my soul into harmony with the best within me… striving, through discipline and focus, through listening closely and being open to new ideas, to create beauty and go beyond what was possible even a few concerts ago… moving from a place of idealism and enthusiasm, even when tired or under the weather or in the presence of cynicism… I’m not saying I always live up to these ideals. I have experienced much self-doubt and anxiety, even when things seemed to be going their best. But I have always tried to keep this vision before me, to remind myself and surround myself with reminders for the times when I lose the flow and sink into negativity. The greatest tool I know for remaining positive is gratitude, constant and profound gratitude. That part comes easily to me since I feel so very blessed, especially through the amazing people who are a part of my life.

I was going to do a little list of some of the moments that stood out for me during my 30’s, and maybe I will still do that at some point, but as I write at this moment, I just feel overwhelmed with a feeling of happiness for the gifts in my life and a sense of open curiosity for what the next year, the next decade will bring.

Not entirely new, but hopefully improved blog!

One of the beauties of keeping a blog is the ability to share thoughts, photos, links, whatever, whenever inspiration strikes and time allows. A friend has begun using this site for posting, so I think I shall follow suit and give it a go. Watch this space for my first “proper” entry very soon! This is just a test to see how it works, and my guinea pig photos are before & after shots of a magnificent moelleux au chocolat we devoured recently at one of our favorite Luxembourg restaurants, the Goethe Stuff.

Say no more!

Daily Bread and Mother’s Milk

In Belgium, there is a small chain of café/restaurants called Le Pain Quotidien, or in Dutch, Het Dagelijks Brood (“The Daily Bread.”) The idea is, you sit at one long wooden communal table, read your newspaper or chat (or write your blog!) while enjoying delicious soups, salads, open-faced sandwiches, croissants, taking your time. The café culture in Europe is one I treasure, along with so many facets of European living. So here I sit at said establishment in Antwerp, waiting for my tuna salad and hibiscus cardamom iced tea, feeling the simple pleasure of sharing a table with a few strangers. What if I were to strike up a conversation with the woman breast-feeding across from me? I’ve grown more shy about such things as I have gotten older, so I know I won’t. It is lovely to watch the look in the young mother’s eyes as she feeds her little one.

At another table nearby, a mother and daughter are having lunch together. From the speed with which they chose their dishes and settled into a conversation, I would guess they meet at least once a week. The daughter is around my age. Watching them, I am struck with a pang of envy.

My life is all I could ask it to be, and I am surrounded by loving, lovely people. But my own mother is 8,000 kilometers away. At most, Mom and I see each other twice a year, and sometimes an entire year goes by between visits. It’s hard for me to get to Oregon from Luxembourg, especially when my “vacation” time often consists of concert tours to the four corners of the globe. I miss the relationship my mom and I might have developed, had we lived closer together. And it is always an awkward component of our times together, trying to fit the intensity of all our mother/daughter feelings and thoughts into a few days.

I know she loves me dearly and is glad that I am able to live my dream as a professional performing artist, and that she is proud of me. I hope she realizes how proud I am of her too, of her devotion to the people she loves, her willingness to be of service to her ideals and to those she encounters who are in need, of her sharp wit, of her quality of innocence in a world that so often succeeds in squeezing the innocence out of us. I think about her more than she will ever know.

Life is truly a series of choices, and the paths that open before us and close behind leave their indelible mark upon who we are. I would not, in hindsight, have chosen any other life than the one I lead. But sometimes I wonder what was behind the other doors. Would I be closer to my parents? Would I have had children of my own? Would I have been happy? Fulfilled? Of course it is impossible to know. My way of being involves remaining committed to the choices I have made without looking back. Still, I miss you today, Mom.