July 2005

July 31, 2005 22:50

I had a great time dancing Saturday night. I love to dance, but I don’t get to do it often because I’m not in a dating relationship. There was a special event given at my church as a fundraiser, and I did volunteer work instead of paying. The event was organized by a woman who says she is a frustrated 50s rock singer, and she organized it very well. She described it as a karaoke/jam session/dance, and she told us in advance that there would be music from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond. When I got there, I was afraid that I had made a big mistake. The room was not air conditioned and the guitars were electric. When things got going, everything was great. The professional musicians – lead guitarist, percussionist, and bass guitarist – were fantastic. The percussionist got me on my feet and dancing all the time. I watched him as I danced, and I saw how creative he was. No da-da-da-da steady beat for him. When he did some solo playing at the end of some of the songs, he was spectacular. The audience was small and almost all women. The one couple there did some slick swing dancing. The rest of us just moved around energetically in time with the music. It was downright aerobic. When I was in high school and college, I was too shy and self conscious to dance, so I love it all the more now. The youngest participant was a toddler who was very outgoing and charming. He did more than walk; he really danced. I was so surprised when I learned that he was only 11 months old. He comes by his sense of rhythm naturally, since he’s the son of the percussion player. His dad told me that the kid is already starting to use the drumsticks. The band played some immortal songs by the Eberly Brothers, the Beatles, Billy Joel, Elton John, and other twentieth century greats. They ended with Wipe Out (remember that one?) with a stunning drum solo at the end. After the band stopped playing, I thanked all the musicians one on one partly because I believe in showing appreciation and partly because I want them to come back. We’re already starting to talk about organizing another dance event.

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July 29, 2005 19:08

July is a slow time around here, and August is even more so. Nothing gets done. Everyone is away on vacation. My yoga class is suspended in August. Most of my students are away on vacation. I always miss them. Right now, they’re my only source of income, but that’s not the only reason I miss them. I get so involved with them on a personal basis. That’s one of the things I love about giving private lessons. They’re a self-selected group. They come to me for lessons because they want to do it. If I had to teach a class of 20 kids in school for one hour a week, I’d probably turn into a screaming zombie. I learn so much from my students, and I have the opportunity to give them what I can. For my students who are kids, I get a chance to know the whole family. I especially enjoy this because I have no family of my own. I only wish I could earn a living teaching violin one on one.

Re earning a living: I’m working on my first freelance assignment as a science writer. It’s a lot more work than I had anticipated. Someone else was supposed to do the research for me, but there were serious shortcomings there, so I’ve been doing a lot of the research myself. The subject is interesting, and I know a lot about it. This makes the researching and writing pretty easy. I have word goals, in a sense. I have to write a given number of words for each subsection. This reminds me of writing term papers in college, where I counted and sweated every word. Now Microsoft Office does the counting for me, but I still have to do the sweating myself. This assignment is a lot of work and the deadline is approaching, so I’ve got to work long and hard now.

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July 25, 2005 08:35

It didn’t happen. The date that I’d hoped would be the start of a wonderful relationship wasn’t. The man I fell for has told me that he is still attracted to me but “not ready for a relationship now.” Where have I heard that before? I’m disappointed, but I’m glad it ended sooner rather than later, or I would have been hurt so much more. I feel rather foolish for expressing my strong feelings so strongly. Still, I’ve got to be honest, although diplomatic, in expressing my feelings and everything else. It’s the only way to start communicating honestly. He used plenty of hyperbole (a “good line”) in talking to me. I don’t understand these things at all. I know that I’m tired of going through life alone, and I really hope that changes soon.

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July 22, 2005 23:37

Yesterday I had an unusual experience: a good date. I haven’t had many dates in a while, and those I’ve had were not good. This fellow and I had been friends, although not particularly close friends, about 15 years ago, when we worked in the same building and worked out in the same gym. He rediscovered me on the Internet. He told me that he had been attracted to me 15 years ago but he couldn’t act on his feelings because he was married at the time. Of course, I figured that this was a good line, and I didn’t believe him. I remembered him as a happy, bright, people-oriented jock. Now I have learned that there are a whole lot of things about him that I didn’t know, and I see new aspects and new depths to his character.

I was really smitten. I have seldom felt this way about any man. I can’t explain it on the basis of anything he said. It must be that elusive thing they call “chemistry.”

We had some misunderstandings before we met, but we managed to communicate, and we met at Starbucks after he got off of work on Friday. When he motioned to adjourn, I was surprised. We had been together for less than an hour and he didn’t say anything about seeing me again. I couldn’t let him slip away. I overcame my shyness and gave him a good, close hug and reminded him that we had talked about seeing a movie together. I think he caught the bait.

When we met at Starbucks, he told me that he hadn’t had time to buy flowers for me, but he had something else for me. It was a CD that he had with him, and he bought a gift bag for it. Of course, the way to my heart is through music. In fact, one of the ways I evaluate a man as a date is the kind of music he likes and listens to with me. For one man, it was classic recordings of Ella Fitzgerald; for another, the theme to the film Orfeo Negro; etc. This man gave me a CD of Vengerov and Virtuosi Violinists. I wasn’t familiar with Vengerov, but I just love this recording. The first track on the CD is Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, and it moved me so, so much. It sounded like the outpouring of one soul towards another soul. Somehow, in some mystical sense, I felt that we connected through this music. It’s not just that he gave me a violin CD because he knows that I play violin. I sensed a strong bond connecting the two of us. I was so excited that I wrote him an email (I don’t have his phone number) telling him that. I tried to put into words and communicate clearly my feelings for him. It takes a lot to overcome my shyness, and, believe me, this man has a lot.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to do too much too fast. I have done that several times in the past, and I’ve always regretted it. Right now I feel like I’ve been struggling alone in the darkness for years. This man gives me the sense of light, warmth, and romance. I asked myself whether it’s just because I’m at a vulnerable stage of my life, and I don’t think so. There is something real and strong connecting us, as I told him in my email. I also told him that I’m normally not this forward but he has a strong effect on me. I feel as excited as an 18 year old, and I enjoy it. I know that I may be setting myself up for a big fall, but that’s OK. In the words of the great twentieth century philosophist, Billy Joel, “I have been a fool for lesser things.” I feel excited in a sweet way just by thinking about him.

Now is the waiting game. He has corresponded with me by email from his office. I don’t expect him to read my two latest emails until Monday. I can only guess and hope how he will react at that time. Now I’m longing for him.

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July 19, 2005 22:02

It’s summer in the Washington DC area – hot and humid, especially humid. Since I don’t have a car, I do a lot of walking, and since I have asthma, I do a lot of wheezing.

Today I went to one of my favorite photography spots, the Butterfly Garden at a local park. It is located in a conservatory (garden type, not music type). Because it was so hot, the butterflies were very active. Also, in order to keep the climate hospitable for butterflies, and not humans, the people who maintain the butterfly garden blow mist into it. I moved slowly and sipped surreptitiously from my water bottle. (No food or drink allowed.) There were several raging hordes of school children coming through. They all ran around and screamed at each other, scaring off the butterflies. Some of the little boys ran after the butterflies and tried to catch them, yelling all the while. I’ve never seen a little girl do that. Twice I pretended to be an authority figure and told the kids, “You can stay here, but only if you’re very, very quiet.” I don’t understand why teachers and parents bring kids to places like that and don’t even try to keep them under control. Now for the good news: There were lots and lots of butterflies and they were very active. As soon as I walked in, I was accosted by a couple of Blue morphos flying past me. Blue morphos are huge butterflies from Central America with beautiful, iridescent blue upper wings. When they sit still, usually to feed, they fold their wings up so that the gorgeous blue is not visible. This helps them hide from their predators. I have taken quite a few pictures of the Blue morpho underwings while they feed. They have a very interesting pattern which looks like a lot of eyes. One of my goals in life is to get a really good photograph of the blue upper wings. One of the women on the staff told me that they have more butterflies this year than they have in the past because they’ve learned more about breeding them. She showed me a few host plants, each associated with a different species of butterfly, and there were tiny eggs on some of them. When they reach the chrysalis stage, the staff people put them in an incubator which is a large, shallow box with a glass cover. The butterflies emerge from the chrysalis there, and last year, I got a photo of a Blue morpho coming out. The butterfly collection has some local butterflies and some butterflies from the rainforests of Central America. The latter include some with bright, vivid colors. The photo that I took today that I especially prize shows two monarchs mating. Last year I got some good photos of a pair of giant swallowtails mating.

I got into conversation with a guy whose camera was better equipped than mine for closeups. He showed me some previews in his digital camera of the photos he took today, and they were gorgeous. As soon as I get rich, or at least stably employed, I’m going to buy a camera like his. He told me that he frequently photographs butterflies at the Butterfly Garden and in his garden at his home. I wish I had the nerve to tell him that I’d love to see the butterflies in his home garden and then give him my business card. Scott68 has said that the way to flirt is to make an ass of yourself in public.

By the time I got home I was wiped out, and I crashed on the sofa for about an hour. I thought that I was out of groceries, so I planned to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich followed by a lot of ice cream for dinner. When I opened the refrigerator, I saw a miracle – some leftover salad. I ate the salad and then a lot of ice cream.

I will post some of the photos I took today when I get some energy back. Meanwhile, I invite you to look at some of my earlier photos here, here, and here.

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July 11, 2005 22:30

I started listening to the CD by the Fiddlin’ Foresters that I wrote about on July 9. It’s great! It’s so exciting! I grabbed my fiddle and played along with every tune. I couldn’t stop playing. After a while, I turned the CD off because I had to get some work done.

This spring I bought another book of music that I can’t stop playing. It’s a collection of tunes by the great nineteenth century Scottish fiddler J. Scott Skinner. What makes it especially fun are the variations he gives for many of the tunes. They are full of rhythm variations, extreme string crossings, and broken chords.

I finally broke down and bought O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, which has 1,850 melodies. I have so many students who want to learn Irish fiddle tunes, that I just had to do it. Professional development as a teacher, of course, not something just for fun for myself.

That reminds me of another great book, “The Classical Fake Book,” which has over 600 classical themes and melodies in their original keys. Not all the keys are violin friendly. Tchaik, for example, wrote a lot of music in five flats. The book has every theme from every movement of every Brandenburg, every movement of every Beethoven symphony, every movement of every Beethoven piano concerto, many Mozart operas, Chopin Nocturnes (definitely not violin friendly), and lots, lots more.

Sometimes I think that I would be able to stick to my budget better if I didn’t buy sheet music. However, I don’t think I’ve ever regretted the purchase of any sheet music. Each one brings me countless hours of enjoyment.

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July 9, 2005 22:10

Every year around the Fourth of July, the Smithsonian Museum puts on a Folklife Festival on the National Mall, between the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building in Washington DC. This year the featured country was Oman, a small sultanate on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula. Also featured were the culture of food, the National Forest Service, and Nuestra Musica from Puerto Rico. There are information booths, exhibits, crafts, music, and dance. I enjoyed the edible garden, cacao beans (but no chocolate), and a demo of watching for fires from a fire tower, but I loved the music and dance best. I heard some great bluegrass musicians from the Forest Service and enjoyed some really different and interesting music and dance from Oman. The Omanis are dark skinned people, dressed in Arab-style robes for the men and gorgeous saris for the women, with several kinds of traditional African-style drums, and -- bagpipes. Oman is on a trade route from Western Europe to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, western Asia, and the Far East. The British passed through on their way to conquering the world, with Scotsmen in kilts playing the Highland pipes and leading the march into battle. The Omanis liked the bagpipes, kept them, and adapted them to their own style of music. While the Scottish pipe bands play and march with military precision, the Omanis do it completely differently. There was one piper with several drummers, and the piper danced around in a very sinuous way while playing music with a sinuous sound. Even when he played Scotland the Brave, the music sounded distinctly unScottish. The music and dance had very exciting and rhythms. At the end of each performance, people in the audience got up on the stage and danced with the Omanis.

The best part of the Festival for me was going to the parties at night. All the performers stayed at the same hotel, and volunteers from the local folklore society, including me, staffed a Hospitality Suite for the performers there. We had a buffet table with food, soda, and beer for the performers. Some of the performers brought their instruments and jammed, while lots of people danced with them. Some of the Omani dancers were quite athletic. Their women were not allowed to dance except in certain ceremonial dances, but the men sure liked having the American women dance with them. I saw two young Omani women, probably no more than 20 years old, covered by their saris everywhere except for their faces, out in the hall, where they thought nobody would see them, and they were dancing. I heard the Omani piper play Omani music, Scotland the Brave, and Oh Susanna. I thought that must be the greatest cross cultural music of the Festival, but I was wrong. Another night, a bluegrass fiddler joined the Omani piper and drummers in playing Oh Susanna. One night, the bluegrass musicians gathered in the hall outside the party room and jammed. They were joined by a few people from the Cherokee nation who sang some of their traditional songs with beautiful harmonies. They explained to us that these were Christian worship songs. The melodies were traditional Cherokee, and Christian missionaries had put words to them. Someone asked how old the melodies were, and one of the Cherokee men said, “As old as dirt.” When they sang Amazing Grace in their native tongue, the bluegrass musicians played along. One of the bluegrass fiddlers really impressed me with his back up rhythms and chords, in addition to his highly ornamented melodies. His musicality was excellent, even when he played one of his mouth harmonicas. I’ve come to associate the harmonica with the raucous sounds of Bob Dylan, but this man made his harmonicas sound as warm and gentle as a breeze or a birdsong. I spoke to him about his fiddle music. I told him that I’m a classically trained violinist and I’m trying to learn rhythm backup bluegrass fiddle from a book, but that’s not a good way to learn. It’s far better to listen and join in. I was honored that another fiddler let me play her instrument for a few songs. I sat next to the awesome fiddler, listened, and tried to do what he was doing. At times I succeeded, but as quickly as I did, he changed to something else. What great talent and creativity! He gave me one of his CDs to take home and play along with.

There are just no other musical experiences like the ones I had at this Festival. I was so lucky.

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