Tag Archives: violinist

The Closet Violinist Breaks Out.

Tonight, the closet violinist swung from the chandelier onto centre stage, dazzling the audience with a half-decent rendition of Chopin’s: “How Deep Is the Night” (Tristesse). However, if I’m honest, my entry onto the stage was much more reticent. Of course, I didn’t want to trip over which was quite a possibility with all the leads, drum kits etc to fall over. However, my violin teacher helped me out and my grand entry went smoothly. Now, I just needed to play…

In the days leading up to the concert, I second guessed myself something chronic.WHAT WAS I THINKING?!!! “You’re hopeless. It’s not ready. Don’t do it!!!” Of course, I’d done nowhere near enough practice. It was only in the last days before the concert, I actually got moving squeezing in all those critical hours of practice, which make such a difference yet almost came too late. However, despite the anxiety, I actually love performing and would love to get out there more often. It’s another one of those eternal, internal conundrums.

Rowena on stage

I could almost look like a rock violinist under these lights.

It was only a small soiree with fellow students and their families. Hardly playing at the big end of year concert, or heaven forbid, at the Sydney Opera House. However, no one likes making mistakes and there’s always that possibility of humiliating disaster. Yours truly has even broken her foot just before going on stage, but in true violinist fashion, it was on with the show. However, nobody in our household says “break a leg” before any of my performances now.

“How Deep Is the Night” is a particularly melancholy piece of music and the words are grab you by throat kind of dark…

SO DEEP IS THE NIGHT 

So deep is the night,

No moon tonight,

No friendly star to guide me with its light.

Be still my heart,

Silent lest my love could be returning,

From a world far apart.

So deep is the night,

Oh lonely night,

On broken wings my heart has taken flight,

And left a dream.

In my dream our lips are blending;

Will my dream be never ending?

Will your memory haunt me till I die?

Alone am I,

Deep into the night,

Waiting for the light.

Alone am I,

I wonder why,

I wonder why.

In my dream our lips are blending;

Will my dream be never ending?

Will your memory haunt me till I die?

Alone am I,

Deep into the night,

Waiting for the light.

Alone am I,

I wonder why,

I wonder why.

Frederik Chopin (m) 1832 Sonny Miller (l) as recorded by Richard Tauber March 29th 1940

However, who hasn’t experienced that all-consuming heartbreak and that sense of the surrounding darkness penetrating your soul? That’s one thing I don’t miss about my youth!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t share the words with the audience so I gave a brief introduction and parked a teddy bear in front. You can’t see it clearly in the photos. However, he has a red stone on his lap with “I love you” etched into it.

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I’d proud of myself for persevering with the violin, which has been very challenging at times. However, persistence and regular practice pays off. I’m making solid strides forward. It’s fantastic.

Rowena & Danni

Photographed here with my very encouraging and patient teacher, Danielle. We played as a duet. 

Do you play an instrument? Do you perform at all? Do you like it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Byron Bay Markets…Sunday 8th January, 2019.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

JRR Tolkein.

Every time, I go to the markets around Byron Bay whether they are in Byron Bay  itself or perhaps over at Bangalow, I have this all consuming sense of coming home. That this is me.

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I doubt this would come as a surprise to anyone these days. However, I was a 25 year old marketing executive when I first came to Byron Bay 25 years ago and had somehow managed to allow my writer-poet self to become fully corporatized. I also have to confess that I was on an ardent quest to find Mr Right, who also seemed to be corporatized and didn’t exactly draw out my creative side either. So by the time a friend of mine suggested that she could see me being a market stall holder in Byron Bay, it was a revelation. Indeed, by this time, this part of my self was even estranged and lost from me… buried alive and mummified in many dead layers of detrititus. Clearly, this was a shame particularly when I rewind back to my university days where I was performing my poetry at events like the Newtown Street Festival. Indeed, I could’ve gone right down this creative path so easily, but it was one thing to dabble in this world as a student. It was quite another to stay there and that wasn’t going to happen. Even if you took away parental influences, I was still a product of the system and once you get used to living the high life, it can become an end in itself.

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Anyway, when I was 25, I visited Byron Bay for the first time. I was driving very slowly from Sydney to Queensland to visit my grandparents in Ipswich and drove as far North as Maroochydore visiting friends via the breathtaking Glasshouse Mountains. To anyone who knows me now, it would come as quite a surprise that I actually set off all by myself in my beloved first car… the Mitsubishi colt. I loved the freedom of being able to stop off WHEREVER and just being totally free and independent. I made a friend, Jody, at the Youth Hostel in Byron Bay and we drove up to Murwillumbah and stayed at the Youth Hostel there on the river and kept in touch for a bit. There was definitely a sense of being Easy Rider or Thelma & Louise on this trip and when I arrived back home, I experienced a seismic shift. Nothing felt familiar and it was like I’d stepped into someone else’s life and not my own. Yet, this was also the time that the neurological storm in my head was brewing and a year later, I would be diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and off to the brain surgeon..a rather radical approach for staying in tune with yourself but I’ve always trod my own path.

I don’t think the markets were around back then, although they could well have been. Byron Bay and that entire region of North-East NSW was at the tail end of its hippy heyday and the streets were still packed with hippies and ferals. Kombies with surfboards loaded up top were parked along the beach and not taking their last breaths either. I think it must’ve been a round 1995. Whenever it was, it was definitely long before marriage, mortgage, kids and 24/7 responsibilities (which the dog has reminded me includes her. She’s just deposited the components of her tennis ball on my laptop. If ever I’m in doubt about what I’m focusing on, I just need to see where she’s deposited her bits of stick or ball. She’s onto me.)

Oops! My apologies! I’ve clearly taken you on a massive detour along the long and winding road to Byron Bay Markets, and at this rate we’ll be lucky to get there before they shut shop.

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The Byron Bay Markets are held Butler Street Reserve, which is just over the disused railway line and a short walk from the main street. Just in case you’d like to know when the markets are on, here’s a link. Having been to the artisan markets the night before, the initial impact of arriving at the markets didn’t quite get my heart racing as much as usual. However, I did hear the most exquisite violin my music, and was all ears. Where was it coming from? I started scouring left and right and discovered the virtuoso was a moth-eaten Pirate Cat. Looks like he could use a bit of a makeover, but he could play the violin better than me thanks to a recording.

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Just goes to show that you don’t need the best instrument to make heavenly music. However, perhaps he could’ve polished his boots…

As much as I loved the markets, I soon realized that our demographic has changed significantly since I was here last and both the kids have outgrown all the handmade children’s clothes and toys which used to draw me in. After many years of op shop devotion, paying full price for clothes has lost its appeal these days and things don’t fit me easily and madam is fussy. So, I’d covered a good 50% of the market before I’d spotted anything to buy and I was starting to wonder if a miracle was at hand. Would this be the very first time Rowie went to Byron Bay Markets and came home empty handed? Surely not!! However, don’t fear. I haven’t lost my magic touch. It turned out even markets like suspense, and the best was yet to come.

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Artist Markus May.

Indeed, I spotted a chatty Willy Wonka type character in a purple top hat and loud shirt with his sketches. What initially caught my eye was a sketch of a tree over a sheet of music. It was beautiful. However, I’m constantly watching my pennies and you don’t know what’s around the corner. So, I went for a smaller sketch of a woman in a purple robe and a card with female nude sitting on a bed taken from behind and she’s looking across the room to a picture of a fairy on the wall. It’s like she’s found her wings. There is an answer, a way out, a way up. We were chatting and it came up that I play the violin and he soon returned with a tiny sketch of a woman with red hair holding her violin. Her eyes are closed and it’s like she can hear the music in her soul without needing to actually play. Naturally, I had to have that. I also bought a few cards. I felt rather fired up after stopping off there.

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Above: Artist Marcus May.

Then, I spotted a vintage stall and I should be ashamed to admit to buying more books, but I’m not. Rather, I’m cheering because I found a 1937 edition of the famed Yates Garden Guide and a Wolf Cub Scouting Book from the 60’s from the UK. If you’ve seen our garden, well you might wonder what I’d be doing with a gardening book. Indeed, you’d be thinking I’d be buying something out of Hogwarts for casting nasty spells on gardens, because I’m a serial plant killer. However, both my grandfathers were avid gardeners and this one dates back just a few years before they embarked on married life. Looking at it, it’s hard to believe that it’s from my grandparents’ life time as it looks a lot older. Not quite ancient, but older than old. Well, Dad’s Dad would be turning 109 this year, which I guess was hardly yesterday. It just reaffirms how quickly time flies by.

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Sheltering from the sun any way you can!

By the way, I should’ve mentioned the heat and just how sunny it was at the markets. I’d forgotten my hat and sunscreen and was trying to stay in the shade just to survive. There are days when out hot Australian sun goes into griller mode, and this was one of those. Fortunately, there were some huge shady trees and the stalls themselves provided much needed shelter. Boy, I really needed it.

As it turned out, the heat was also to blame for a low turnout at the markets. Perhaps, people were at the beach or simply hibernating indoors. I’m not sure. However, you have to feel for the stallholders. For many, this is their livelihood. Bread and butter on the table kind of stuff.

Hey, before we leave the markets and head up to the beach, I wanted to share a few photos of a couple of double-decker buses I spotted across the road. You never quite know what you’re going to find around Byron Bay (other than the unexpected!)

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Before we head off to the beach, I thought I’d leave you with a parting shot of the Pirate Cat, who looks like he’s taken a Bex and is enjoying a good lie down.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st May, 2018.

 “It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change.”

Alice in Wonderland.

 

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share on Yet Another Monday Night.

Well, my excuse is that I had to get all dolled-up and formal on Saturday, and it was such a shock to the system, that I had to retire to my bed for all of Sunday and even much of today. While I did have a bit of a joke about having a Front Row Seat at the Royal Wedding, the truth is almost as inconceivable. I was playing my violin at Gig Night at the music studio and being a violinist to the very core, I had to wear my blacks. Indeed, I dug the Winter-weight Calvin Klein number out of hibernation, and strutted my stuff. Well, I wasn’t strutting because my shoes were too tight, I can’t strut at the best of times and inspite of myself I was more than a tad nervous. Not because I’m scared of performing. I knew I hadn’t really done enough practice and that there would be mistakes, but I didn’t want too many mistakes. Moreover, I didn’t want to stuff up the bits I always get right. I did that at the end of year concert and actually pulled off the tricky bits. After much philosophical reflection, I’ve decided that the violin is a bit of a temperamental character, who is insanely jealous and refuses to cooperate when ignored and like to stuff things up for you just for the hell of it. Yet, for some strange reason, I’ve remained faithful and haven’t packed up my bags and returned to the piano. Not yet, anyway.

 

You can read more about my performance in A Legend In My Own Hair Follicles

 

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Alice in Wonderland

So how was your week?

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of it? What were the standouts? While I didn’t have the opportunity to conduct a representative survey, from what I’ve heard, the Address seems to be the most talked about aspect of the wedding. It seems some people loved it, others thought it went on too long, and I’ve downloaded the transcript to fully get my head around it, although I’m yet to read it fully. In terms of the Address being too long, if I was the Most Reverend Curry, I would’ve made the most of having my one chance in life to speak to the world. While he might not have been Dr Martin Luther King, he had a beautiful and very powerful message about love and acceptance and with all the awful things happening in our world in both public and private arenas, we need a good dose of what he had to say. Indeed, we each need to wake up and start trying to make a difference in the same way that Harry and Meghan are already doing, and it will be exciting to see what kind of impact they’ll have, now that they’ve become a team.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my lung specialist. He’s usually happy to see me twice, or even once a year.However, after my lung function tests two weeks ago, it was “I’ll see you in two weeks”. They showed that my lung capacity has dropped 20% in six months. Mind you, I’ve had a lot of lung and even a severe sinus infection, and so the big hope was the the drop was due to infection. So, he whacked me on more “horse pills” and I tried to exercise more and do what I could to save me from more intervention. Of course, I’m “feeling better”. No, I truly am and I’m not coughing anywhere near as much. Indeed, a week ago when I was talking to my mother on the phone, she noted that I hadn’t coughed. Hopefully, her observations will be supported by tomorrow’s results.

By the way, I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but Masterchef Australia has started up again for 2018. I’m an absolute diehard fan of the show, and while I might not make the recipes they create, I do add little bits and pieces to my own cooking, to add a bit of pizazz. I’ve even cooked with fennel, which felt far more alien to me than a thing called a “custard apple” (thanks to my mother being a Queenslander).

Anyway, it’s Nigella Week on Masterchef and tonight, there was a an eleimination pressure test… Nigella’s Chocolate Feast. It was a hard show for a chocoholic like me to sit through. However, I’m already planning to make her fudgy brownies. They were so gooey and sensational.

Nigella Nutella Cake

Nigella’s Nightmare…The Avalanche.

I must admit I sympathized with Nigella’s Victims tonight, as they were making her Chocolate Olive Oil Mouse. Two years ago, I also came a cropped making Nigella’s Nutella Cake. Like one of the contestants, I also over-beat the egg whites, and it ended in disaster, which I dubbed:  Nigella’s Heartache. After all, it’s all well and good when people post beautiful recreations of your recipes, but it’s not so good when they flaunt their disasters all over the World Wide Web.

Before I head off, I just wanted to mention my latest contribution to Friday Fictioneers…A Special Child. This is written about a young girl on the Autism Spectrum who goes missing in the bush.

Zac running at Ocean beach May 18

Zac running along the beach.

Oops, I almost forgot. The dogs received a bit of an update this week…Pup Psychologist, Anyone? Since I posted this, we went on a disastrous trip with the three dogs to the beach yesterday when all three refused to come when called and Zac and Rosie were sprinting up and down the beach and Lady was wondering off on her own. There were a few fishermen along the beach and we could see the dogs stealing their bait, their and getting tangled in the lines. Time to go home. That is, if you can catch them. Training will now be intensifying for both dogs and humans.

Well, it’s getting late and I have a long and big day ahead tomorrow.

I hope you had a great week and I look forward to catching up on your news.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

A Legend in My Own Hair Follicles.

Before the magic of the Royal Wedding and seeing Harry and Meaghan tie the knot in spectacular fashion, I hung up my pink washing up gloves and metamorphosed into a star. I, the greatest unknown violinist, legend in her own hair follicles, performed Minuet by Beethoven with my violin teacher at Gig Night. That’s the modern equivalent of what was known as a “Soiree” back in the day. Indeed, it might have been more like my grandparents’ day, but there we were performing in the studio with real performance lights and sound equipment and our very own stage. It was personal, intimate and my husband and kids were all lined up in a row in the audience…my support crew.

Well, behind every star performer, there’s also their teacher. When it comes to my teacher, however, she had special duties. She was not only accompanying me in our duet in the kind of way that compensates for what I’ll call my “idiosyncrasies”, she had to help me on and off stage. Indeed, we made a decision that I would enter from backstage to prevent me from having a spectacular trip and fall getting up on the stage. I’m pretty good at reconnaissance these days, and I needed to hold onto the wall climbing up the step and was rather concerned that I could fall into the amp. The good thing is that the team at the music school is well versed in my idiosyncrasies and were only too willing to help. Moreover, I’m also one to speak up.

I should also point out that the staff at the music school have experienced these idiosyncracies before. A few years ago when we were performing at the school Christmas Carols, I stepped on the edge of the where the asphalt meets the grass and my ankle flipped over (not uncommon) and then I heard this crunch and fell. The pain was excruciating. Blood was dripping down my knee, but did I pike out? Does a violinist ever give up, even when the ship is sinking? Of course not. I played on and was helped on and off the stage that night too.

My performance tonight wasn’t perfect. I knew it wasn’t going to be. Yet, I was hopeful. Moreover, despite my nerves, I really love performing and being a part of a performance. I like getting out of my cramped quarters in our corridor of a dining room where I usually have to hold my breath as husband, kids, dogs, tennis balls squeeze or fly past and put my feet on that stage, dress up in my blacks and even put on come makeup and lipstick and be a violinist on the outside too. A musician. Knowing I belong here. That this stage is mine, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I own this space (something I picked up from dancing btw).

It’s a space I usually have to grow into, because it’s all too easy to put my playing down. I’m not in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. So, how could I ever consider myself a violinist? I haven’t even tried to learn vibrato, because I really don’t believe in myself. Don’t believe it’s possible. Of course, as I said, I have a decent list of “idiosyncracies”, which let me off the hook. Moreover, be honest, it hasn’t felt that important. It’s been more important to simply be able to play without making mistakes. However, it’s something I come back to once in a while, and learning vibrato is a natural progression for a violinist. Just like my daughter will soon be getting her first pair of pointe shoes for ballet, I should be equally enthusiastic and bursting out of my skin to learn vibrato. Take the next step. I should be wanting to grow, even though it usually means a phase of going backwards as we tackle the new skill.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing about all of this is twofold.

Firstly, I wanted to share my violin world with you. I don’t write about it all that often, but I actually have a lesson each week. I am quite a fan of Suzuki method, although I use the music and don’t play by ear. For those who know Suzuki, I recently moved onto Book Three. I was so proud. It’s been a long journey. I have hydrocephalus and dermatomyositis.  So, I never thought I’d be able to play the violin at all and only took it up again when my daughter insisted on learning, and she needed some assistance. I sat in on her lessons and while she has a rather on and off again relationship with her violin, I’ve stuck with it. She’d probably get to my level after a few weeks’ steady practice, but I’d only be delighted to see her overtake me. Well, she already has. She performed at the Sydney Opera House with her school two years ago at the tender age of 10. Clearly, you’re much better off trying to play at the Opera House as a young beginner than a geriatric.

The other reason I wanted to share my violin journey with you, is to encourage you to consider taking up that instrument you’ve always wanted to play. To go back to the piano you played at a kid, which could well be used for displaying family photos and ornaments than it’s intended purpose. Have a go.

I never considered myself a real music lover or expert of any sort. However, I can sense this is changing. That something new is awakening within. Actually, it’s not something new. It’s like when you’re doing a big clean-up and you find something you haven’t seen for a good 10-20 years and you taken right back to that forgotten time and place and all the emotions come flooding back as there’s that sense of coming home. I have always loved to sing and was good enough, but my voice is rusty and my violin’s become my voice, and to turn to the words of Johnny Farnham’s The Voice I need to

You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear

Do you have any musical dreams? If you could be any musician, who would you be? I’ll have to give it some thought.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Bless Our Little Violinist!

Today, I received an urgent SOS. No! NOT an SMS, but a real SOS. It read: “Mummy, I have a week to learn Fur Elise (her choice) on her violin for an audition. Please book me in for as many lessons as you can!!!!!”

If there is one thing I have learned from my kids, it’s to expect the unexpected. That as much as I try to be the conductor and orchestrate the piece, the players are busy composing their own thing and improvising instead. Obviously, there are no guarantees that it’s going to be a harmonious mix when it all comes together either. Much more likely, that the sounds will be wondering randomly all over the place like lost sheep. However, all is not lost. With three sheep dogs under one roof, hopefully they can retrieve the notes and bring it all back together. By now, I guess you’ve realized that we’re not traveling systematically in a straight line. Rather, our paths are more like a spider’s web AND for better or worse, I think that makes me the fly.

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The spark for my latest philosophical rant, was my daughter. An audition has cropped up, and this musical calls for a singer and musician. That is, someone who can play an instrument. For my daughter, this posed no problem because she plays the violin. The only trouble is, that she hasn’t touched her violin in just over 12 months. Indeed, she hung up her bow after performing at the Sydney Opera House with her school. In case you haven’t had a love affair with the violin, it doesn’t appreciate neglect and has been known to screech and complain in very unpleasant, ear-piercing tones when it’s player returns.  At least, that’s how it’s been for me!

The road to this audition hasn’t been easy. Miss was away at a school camp this week where, by the way, she lost her voice. Moreover, she had no time to learn her lines, resurrect her violin or prepare herself and then, we received a note from the dance school saying we were recording her audition this morning. Naturally, she wanted to pull out, but she’d made a commitment and getting audition practice is the name of the game at the moment. So, off she went… the violin case still covered in dust. It hasn’t been unopened in over twelve months!

I still remember what it was like be a kid and leap before you look, not really knowing what you ought to know before you dive in. Back when I was eleven, I filled out a form for a pen pal and ticked that I could speak German. After all, I could count to ten and also knew “Ja” and “Nein”. Of course, I was rather surprised when I received letters in German from three German pen pals. Then, there was the time I auditioned for the Bennelong Programme at the Sydney Opera House. I remember my friends and I filling out the forms and I ticked that I could play the flute, even though I hadn’t touched it in at least 4 years. I got into the programme but was ultimately so intimidated by the level of talent, that I left. I am clearly much better at creative writing.

Anyway, my daughter’s been given another week’s grace before she needs to do her recording. So, the voice has been ordered to rest, and the violin has been ordered to play. I must admit that I’m quite excited about this and I have loved playing with Miss in the past. Yet, at the same time, I know we have a mountain to climb. She not only needs to sound like a decent violinist, she has to look like one and that is almost as difficult. She has chosen to play Fur Elise, which you don’t usually hear on violin, but I’d chased down the music with my teacher. My mum has taught Miss to play it on the piano and Mum tells me that my grandfather used to whistle the opening bars. I can also play it on the piano myself…right through. It’s a sentimental fave.

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Just as well I’m not a ruthless organizer. It wasn’t that long ago, that I had a good look at my daughter’s violin and wondered whether it was time to go. With a cupboard full of violins and three hungry dogs, I’m planning to sell the smaller violins and was wondering whether to add her ¾ violin to the pile. After all, how long do you wait to find out whether a dream’s merely asleep or if it’s dead? Even if it’s simply taken a different path and been reborn as something else, the violin was surplus to requirements. However, I couldn’t be sure and wasn’t ready to put that final nail in the coffin.

You see, I still remember once upon a time…

Back then, Miss was six going on seven with  bobbed, dark hair, a fringe. She was my little sparrow. She’d fallen in love with the violin and despite my efforts to steer her into learning the piano, she insisted. At first, she played and played and played, but after the holidays, the stupid thing started screeching and it was all too much. She stopped playing, but I kept going. Despite all her protests, I knew there was a magic there. That the violin had touched her somewhere deep inside her soul and lit a spark. The sort of spark, which never goes out. Even if you can’t see a glimmer of light from the surface, the spark is still there just waiting to be rekindled.

While her love affair with the violin has been  dare I say “fickle”, I have been steadfast. A week after her very first lesson, I picked up my bow again and I haven’t put it down since. Indeed, through pneumonia, chemotherapy and the demands of parenting with a chronic illness, I have played on. Just like the violinists immortalized on the Titanic, I’m no quitter.

Rowena Lizottes

Posing after our violin performance 2012. Lizotte’s is a rock n’ roll venue where the likes of Diesel have performed…and me! The music school hired the venue for our concert.

 

Yet, learning an instrument as a mature aged student isn’t easy. It’s actually a very physical thing and I’m not physical. I’ve had to work hard, persevere and accept the plod while those around me soar and a little upstart picks up Fur Elise after not touching her violin for more than a year, and plays it. Not perfect, but after 30 minutes, she plays it better than me.

As much as I’m delighted and relieved she can pick it up again like that, I’d have to be honest, and say there’s a fair degree of schadenfreude in there. It’s not easy when you’ve put in the hours and someone else clicks their fingers, and gets there at the speed of light. You want to complain to management. Register you’re angst with the man upstairs. After all, isn’t it meant to be the tortoise who wins the race…

Do you have any tales of going for auditions or preparing for concerts etc? I’d love to hear them. Please leave them in the comments.

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 15th October, 2016.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Let’s just forget it’s after dark and switch on the sun. Why let reality get in the way of painting a picture? While we’re at it, we can throw a rug on the grass and smell the roses. Our rose bush has burst into Spring quite literally and is covered all over with luscious red roses and a multitude of buds. Just going to show that a savage prune can be good for the soul. Mind you, personally I say go prune the rose bush and leave me alone.

How was your week? What did you get up to?

This week, I had a truly special moment when I received a Facebook message asking if I still had any of the sunflower seeds I’d received from the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine. This woman was related to the pilot and she was desperately searching for some seeds to plant in their new home. MH17 was the passenger plane shot down over the Ukraine2 years ago and these seeds were salvaged by the Sydney Morning Herald’s journalist Paul McGeogh and photographer. They brought the seeds back to Australia via quarantine where they were planted and this is generation 1.

If you would like to read about the sunflower seeds, click here

I was too anxious to plant the seeds last year. Actually, this wasn’t anxiety but more of a reality check because I am a serial plant killer and our front yard is currently littered with dead bodies following my most recent splurge. I always vow to change but my track record speaks for itself.

Sunflower letter

Sunflower seeds from the Ukraine

So, I packaged up 5 of the seeds and today we planted twelve in a seed planter at home and I’m hoping to plant the rest in the greenhouse at my son’s school. If you’ve ever read The Little Prince and you remember how the rose was kept safe under the glass dome, you’ll know exactly what I’m looking for. Obviously, I can’t bubble wrap the sunflowers but a greenhouse is pretty much the same thing. Hopefully, we’ll get plenty of seeds and future crops will be assured.

While I haven’t thinking about seeds, I’ve been doing more family history research. By the way, anybody who thinks this is dull and boring, hasn’t met my family. This bunch are on my Mum’s Mother’s side. There are a couple of different branches but they basically arrived from Germany during the 1860s. My research started out with my Great Great Great Aunty Rose who had a sophistocated hair and beauty salon in Brisbane which served the elite…including General MacArthur’s wife while he was stationed in Brisbane.

aunty-rose

Well, Aunty Rose was theatrical to say the least and she had a pet kookaburra “Johnny Boy” which she could get to laugh on command (not easy for a kookaburra apparently. I’ve never tried.) She also had a pet budgerigar called Romeo whose vocabulary was a very impressive 800-1000 words. While other women were knitting socks for the war effort, Aunty Rose organised fundraising concerts for the Red Cross featuring local entertainers and her birds. Aunty Rose, not unsurprisingly, was very in elocution and gave very dramatic renditions of poems. We actually have a recording of her performing on an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. She used to perform when my Mum’s family went round for a visit and apparently they found it very difficult to contain their laughter. Of course, these were the days when children were seen and not heard and they had to behave!!

Anyway, while researching Aunty Rose I stumbled across a startling little snippet. It turns out that her Uncle played the violin for Ashton’s Circus around 1870. This made quite a lot of sense. From there I strayed across another snippet about how members of the Wirth’s Circus band were bailed up by the notorious bushranger Captain Thunderbolt.

By this time, my creative juices are gushing like a fountain. Seriously, you couldn’t make up these characters.

So, as you can see, I’ve been well and truly spirited away from the real world this week and I’ve wandered off on yet another goat’s trail chasing the story. However, my stories are all very cold off the press. You could indeed say frozen but they’re so good that I have to perform CPR. Bring them back to life.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. I need to get to bed before the sun rises for real.

Hope you have a great week!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share and please click on the linky to enjoy beverages from right around the globe. .

xx Rowena

Poet in Paris 1992: Maestro

I wasn’t allowed to touch you.

Yet, you played my heartstrings

like a maestro making love

to his cherished violin.

Mesmerised by your song,

I swooped deep into your soul,

forgetting even how to fly

because we were one.

You and I connected through

a love far deeper than touch

our spirits knitting together,

stitch by stitch, into one.

You spoke my language.

Sang my song.

How could I ever grasp

why our love was so wrong?

That when spirits knit,

man and woman always risk

flying into the flame.

A flame which can burn!

That two should never

blur into one.

We each need to walk

in our own pair of shoes.

I was but young

but you…

you were not.

You should have known!

After playing on my heartstrings,

finding my song,

you cut me off with a knife.

Threw me back in the pond.

Alone, late at night

on the banks of the Seine,

La Belle Dame Sans Merci,

I am haunting this city of pain.

Yet, soft in the distance,

a violinist plays Vivaldi’s Spring.

A bud of hope in the darkness,

I now hear the baby birds sing.

Rowena Curtin Written 8th November, 2015 reflecting back on Paris July-August, 1992.

I know most poems are meant to stand alone and not come with some sort of dictionary or encyclopaedia attached but since when have I followed convention and why should I start now.

Here’s a bit of a backstory to Maestro.

It is very exceptional for me to write a poem and put it out there in any way, shape or form, on the day I wrote it. I am a great believer in stewing the words and making sure there’s a well-developed sense of flavour and complexity expressed as simply as possible. My Dad would say that I treat my writing like a fine wine. It needs to mature.

However, this is an old story so it’s been stewing long enough. Although, I could probably tweak it a little more here or there, this poem also tells a story and I don’t want to change that story just to produce a perfectly structured poem with perfect rhythm. It’s a very intense poem and intense emotions are jerky, uncooperative and don’t just flow. They’re awkward.

In this instance I am writing about a terrible heartache I experienced as a naive 21 year old in Paris when I was backpacking through Europe. I spent much of the trip actually living in Heidelberg, Germany and through Church I made an incredible soul mate who was never going to be more than a friend and yet I guess it’s almost inevitable that one of both of us was going to get burned. Not in the usual sense of a romantic involvement but while I still believe men and women can be friends without things crossing the line, there’s a difference between being friends and sharing each others’ intimate thoughts and feelings. Perhaps, you are made of tougher stuff than I. HOwever, in my experience, somebody usually gets burnt to an absolute charcoaled crisp.

At 21, I didn’t understand all of this and just bounded in where angels feared to tread.

I haven’t thought very much about this situation for a very long time. Now, happily married with two kids and two dogs, it’s a very long time ago. It’s only because I’ve been researching my time in Paris that I’ve been revisiting this very closed book.

Poets have a reputation for being a bit “emotional”, “intense”. I was all this and more in Paris. Leaving our hotel very late at night and writing beside the Seine til something like two in morning as orange reflections danced along the river near Pont Neuf, I was so out of my mind with grief that I perceived the dangers but was somehow detached from my self, almost an observer. Fortunately, I was staying with friends, who helped patch me up a bit but also realised I wasn’t good. They put me on the train back to Heidelberg. It was either that or go home. I was fortunate and very blessed to be welcomed into quite an expansive Church community there and lived with a German family I had stayed with before. All these people really were angels in disguise.They took me in as a stranger and brought me back from the brink.

It took quite awhile to find my feet and over time, I came to understand that another force was at work. That my desperate need to be understood and connect were borne out of an undiagnosed medical condition. That I actually had a harbour in my head, which was placing pressure on all sorts of areas of my brain, with, in many ways, quite intriguing results.

This harbour is known medically as hydrocephalus or fluid in the brain and was possibly caused by my very difficult birth. When I was 25 and had moved to Geraldton in Western Australia thinking I was “stressed” and once again was pursuing “love”. I was having trouble with this spinning sensation. Feeling dizzy. When I flew home for Christmas and visited my GP, I couldn’t touch my nose and this was just the beginning of my rapid descent into neurological chaos. I ended up having brain surgery where they inserted a shunt to drain away the fluid and to manage the pressure. It took over a year to recover but the surgery made an incredible improvement.

When I look back on this brain of mine, it really was a ticking bomb and I had no idea what was going on in between my ears. I know I often say that about my kids but in my case, it was incredibly true.

I have wondered how different my life would have been if I’d been diagnosed when I was younger. While it might have made many things easier, I have no doubt that my parents would NOT have given me that ticket to Europe for my 21st. That I would have been wrapped in cotton wool and been considered “special”. Potentially too special to really live. I am really glad that I was able to experience independence and stretch my wings, even though I had a few more crashes than most but at least I saw the world.

By the way, just a point on the violin references, I have been learning the violin for the last 3 years and I’m currently learning to play Vivaldi’s Spring. There are a few tricky bits and my teacher beautifully explained how Vivaldi was trying to mimic the sound of the baby birds…the sounds of Spring. So, not unsurprisingly, these images have entered my verse.

I don’t always like a happy ending and perhaps prefer something more realistic. However, considering the anguish in these Paris poems (yes, there are a few), I also like to offer a bit of hope because I didn’t stay stuck in that very bleak pit of despair. Although it took awhile and a lot of support, I did get through.

I am hoping that by sharing this experience, that perhaps I can encourage people to hang in there through the valley and hope and pray that the light will return. That things will improve.

Anyway, if I don’t get to bed soon, a different light will be appearing…the sun.

Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me. It means the world.

xx Rowena