Cobbled stones of Alabaster; the path is a maze of twists and turns with tall, narrow buildings dating back to the 10th Century B.C. There are 112 small islands that connect through canals of water and bridges. It is past dusk, the air is cool and the sound of steps echo in enigmatic alleys of a fog that slowly drifts in. Old, worn oil lamps cast a subdued iridescent illumination; it draws me forward ... intrigued, i approach a large wooden door where the key’s hole is made of iron chiseled with monogramed initials.
I knock: the door opens … slowly … into a foyer whose height surpasses it’s width with century old whispers of song and words. The room is more reminiscent of a church rather than a home but will become an opera house to a serenade of utterances that reach into the depths of one’s soul. Exquisite Beauty of sound; it is a Liliquoi flower in bloom. La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi was first performed in Venice in 1853. Originally entitled Violetta, he began composing music for it after a visit to Paris in late 1851 and early 1852. The Italian opera will take place in three rooms: the foyer, the library and the final scene, a quiet blend of sorrow and love, in a bedroom where sound carries emotions upward toward spiral staircases into a cloud filled sky of butterfly wings.
Fifty or so chairs are set up under dimly lit sconces. The room is mostly empty but will fill to capacity within the next half hour. There is a a guest book with a large black feather pen at a table beneath a painting - the colors entice me toward a place that calms my heart with a peace that settles the wrestling of my mind. As a prelude, the first act has already begun to take place somewhere deep inside of me. I slowly breathe in allowing rest to penetrate my senses into an open dialog of a song that will take me to a faraway land.
Venice, Italy - where walls become music and the beating of life is experienced through food and laughter: La Dolce Vita is sung through the sweet union of people where the history of it's people is whispered through time. I am but a pedal in a rose filled sky.
People from different countries have come together to listen to an opera sung in three scenes. The audience is quiet and still - an occasional cough echoes like a splash of water against aged old rocks. Steps break silence as 3 people enter the room. They are each carrying an instrument: two violins and a viola. The stillness of the air has heightened my anticipation. One man looks into the audience - our eyes meet; his violin resting upon his shoulder, face pressed firmly between bone and flesh. His gaze is intense, his fingers grasping the rod, the language is quiet and poised.
The soft fabric of material light and breezy gently moves as a woman with exquisite presence walks in. She is in a long, elegant gown with fine beading across a tight bodice and flowing skirt. She stands tall; a controlled air hushes the audience to a palatable silence. The tension between musician and singer intensifies without the utterance of sound. Poised and prepared, the air is tight. Then with the motion of rod across string, in a breathe, the first note: a blend of violin and voice begin in a mingled unison that have created an intimacy so deep and so vulnerable that there is nowhere left for my mind to go but to fall backwards in slow motion and dwell in the space in between - where soul and body, between a man and woman are one.
The Italian opera begins.
The clock bell rings – it echoes in chambers of white. Sterile and uniform, the beating of vital signs is heard as a constant tone that strikes the inside of my head like soldiers marching across battle fields of earth and sky. The drum is steady and forthright. There is no peace here – just the constant rushing of cortisol pulsing through veins of distance and confusion. I close my eyes seeking respite from the darkened skies that engulf the room, quiet whimpers of a child’s aching heart spilling across cold iron beds with linen marked with numbers.
I search for the sound of solace but there is no escaping through thick, heavy curtains that separate cubicles of limbs broken by the striking of chords on an un-tuned instrument. Glass shatters across marble-like floors splintering the clicking of the minutes on a large black clock. My mind wanders down long corridors of doors with rows of numbers across wood chips. I search for a softening light to grasp and to hold.
There is no peace here ... pain, in a child and in a mother.
I awoke at 5am, showered and got dressed in the hospital restroom. This was not an ordinary morning. It was one where my daughter had been in surgery the night before for a ruptured appendix. It had been a long night of worry but she had made it through. One of the best surgeons had worked his magic; a kink had masked the symptoms causing some gangrene tissue to erupt poison throughout her body. It was the beginning of a long nine nights but for this first morning, I thought she was in the clear.
I sat beside her bed in a patient visiting chair, arm outstretched to touch the cold metal that housed my tiny soon to be fourth grade child. There was another girl with a removed appendix beside her - nursing staff attended her regularly but mine seemed to escape this normalcy in the pediatric ward. I waited for the doctor; an excellent surgeon with a reputation of a poor bed-side manner, I prepared myself with hopeful anticipation alone in an unfamiliar room.
With my daughter resting peacefully, I must of dozed off momentarily. I kept searching for numbers - on my watch and on the wall. The minutes ticked as if I was falling in slow-motion backwards to a place I did not care to know. Again, doctors and nurses attending to her roommate, I finally sought the nurses desk for an inquiry of when my doctor was scheduled to arrive. She looked at me coldly, with no feeling: "he was already there but didn't want to wake you" were the words on a distant, solitary key played on a piano over and over again.
I was dumbfounded and confused as I searched frantically for a familiar note on this unplayed song. I asked about the dressing of my daughter's wounds - nothing. There was a regular routine of checking vital signs from a woman who spoke very broken english. There was a morning and afternoon visit of the taking of blood and the delivery of fluid for food but I felt alone without a life preserver in a body of water. As I tried to be strong to a daughter who was stronger, she never shed a tear that day - weak with courage and bravery.
Time escaped; it was afternoon. Soon the nursing staff would change, soon my husband would be there, soon a familiar tune would be played but the scene unfolded into a cold, parched pavement. My daughter was getting weaker - sweat poured from her forehead, her pulse seemed weak. The angel with broken english came in taking her vitals, she closed the drape that separated two patients, and whispered something only I could understand - very, very sick. She motioned for me to get ice and wash clothes. She began a very unlikely scene in this opera; she removed the crucifixion from her chest, laying it down and began to pray.
I responded quickly, desperately, without hesitation I prayed - and prayed. She left - I was a lion trapped in a den trying to protect her offspring ... help. I sought the nurses station and said the temperature was very high and the same, cold voice met me with a fight that said I shouldn't be using ice. My husband arrived but a work call drifted in. The fog that surrounded me was now taking me under with no oxygen; there was no place left for me to go but to run... I ran out, I ran down, I ran up - with tears now flowing, I came to a place of humility. With a simple prayer, I lifted my eyes to the heavens and with desperation, I mouthed words only He could understand - she is yours Lord, God; i am simply a mother who loves.
And with sweat and tears now pouring from my body, I gazed outside a huge plate-glass window; i was weak from courage and bravery with nowhere left to go but deep inside to a place nobody can touch - a deep space of intimacy where the union and conversation between God and myself dwell. Surrendered, I sought prayer and then called two pastors - one my brother and another a friend and they, too, prayed; I made the slow walk back to the room marked with a number.
The veil was lifted - it turned out, my daughter had over 105 degree temperature, the nursing staff changed to the sweetest, kindest, gentlest women I knew. It was still only day one of a journey but the atmosphere had tangibly changed to a covering of the splash of water over dry, parched pavement. I never again saw the angel with broken english that prayed over my daughter; maybe she was the soft fabric of material light and breezy -a woman with exquisite presence who walked in.
Silly - I watched the 1966 version of Batman and Robin in preparation for this month's blog post. For the better part of two years, I ran around the house at the age of 5, jumping off of couches with a makeshift cape and safety pin; I was batman and I always made my sister be Robin, no compromise. POW - BANG- Holy Bat Cave - the dynamic duo was not only inseparable but together fought the evil shenanigans of the Penguin, the Joker, the Riddler, and Cat Woman. Batman without Robin is like coffee without sugar, tea without honey. Watching the simplicity of the early movie (which ran after the television series the year before) reminded me of the innocence of a simple story.
The second concert of summer is the Goo Goo Dolls and where Bob Dylan was aligned with Superman in a story of grace, this month the story of Batman is one of compassion. It is a story of childlike faith and genuine human emotions that cause us to press the pause button and reflect on the simple truth that we are better because there are people that bring us joy in the simplicity that they are alive; they bring a simple smile not in what they do but in who they are and love spills out in droplets of life overflowing.
A simple story - of love.
We have all been to them - churches that make our mouths drop, where the incense of faith drifts in upon butterfly wings to an opera of exquisite sound and symphony; they inspire and ignite the passion of possibility in the form of hope where wings breathe life into new places.
Beautiful stained glass windows illuminate a simple story of sacrifice through wood and flesh and a blending of humanity and eternity in a simple act of love. So many paintings and stained glass windows for a reason so simple - the early church could not read; the story had to be told through pictures.
The telling of the salvation of Christ in the simple, uncomplicated, un-politicalized reading of His word through a simple story of love. The church and it's people make it difficult but the story I am learning is one that says He knows every hair on our heads and the numbers of our days and rejoices and takes delight not in what we do but in who we are - simple: love.
I recently took a journey on the east coast - equipped with a backpack, a cup of water, faith and a belief that I am deeply and completely loved and prayed for, I spent 36 hours in the palm of God's hands for the simple task of experiencing an adventure through His eyes. There were many more days but this trail, where my water cup was too tall to fit in the backpack holder, spilled droplets of water wherever I walked; that is what my faith did those hours, spill droplets of love into the deep crevices of my heart where nobody goes and I was changed from the inside out for having experienced the story.
A story told simply through the pictures in our minds. For at least fifty years I have struggled with my worth through what I do rather than who I am. I can now honestly see the passion and creativity hard wired into my DNA was not by accident. On my mother's side: a trumpet player who with passion, experience and a gift has played in large concerts in Italy with renowned opera singer, Andrea Bocelli. On my father's side: a man who had an uncanny ability to dig deep into a reservoir of catholic guilt and troubled pain to deliver on stage an authentic, memorable performance to become one of hollywood's premiere Golden age actors.
The audience in this TimbreNotes writings saves me - it is a stage for reconciling the passion and faith that have come to define me. It is a hope that my story is read (and valued) and in the process, droplets of His love spills out wherever I go. My intention? To leave every place I go a little better than when I arrived and like Batman and Robin, remain unified in strength and courage.
In the gospel of Mark 6:7 Jesus calls the twelve disciples to himself sending them out two by two, giving them authority over impure spirits. He gave them instructions. They responded in obedience. The result was not only the spreading of the gospel but the bearing of good fruit.
I do not claim to be anything special ... just human - doing the best I can with a vivid imagination, an unwavering faith and a willingness to be changed from the inside out for having read His story.
God breathes life into dead places; we stand firmly on what we know to be true. May you experience the greatest opera ever told - your story and may it be a blend of violin and voice mingled in unison creating an intimacy so deep and so vulnerable that there is nowhere left to go but to fall backwards in slow motion and dwell in the space in between - where soul and body, between a man and woman are one.
I end with this video of The Prayer, by Andrea Bocelli with American Idol winner, Katharine McPhee because I watched her when she was a simple young lady with a big dream.
Information found on Wikipedia, You Tube, the book, An Affair to Remember by Christopher Andersen, songs may be purchased on I-Tunes, photos provided by either Fotolia or by myself. Material copyrighted.
A person who searches for depth and beauty in the simple things.