Friday, June 24, 2011

Time to Play!

"Put all your soul into it, play the way you feel!"
- Frédéric Chopin

At this point, I'm uncertain who is able to read Smiling Heart, who is unable to comment, who is having trouble loading it, or who simply doesn't care anymore.

It's nearly time for my vacation, and so all these blog bugaboos actually come at the perfect time. Finding the silver lining again? Playing the glad game again? Oh, yeah.

I am Pollyanna, hear me roar.

Blogger and the universe have conspired to give to me the gift of a little time off, and I plan on using it to play around. This will be the last post from me for three weeks or so, or until I get the blog problems solved. I'll play around with things while I'm on vacation, and maybe revamp the whole blog (I'm kind of fond of the way it looks, now, though, so maybe not...what do you think?)

Who knows what the future holds?  I'm ready to play, and I'm planning on pouring my soul into it!

Of course, I leave you with my very favorite piece of music by my very favorite composer played by my very favorite pianist.

I recommend that you take ten minutes out of your day, sit with your eyes closed, turn the volume up so far that your bones vibrate along with the piano chords, breathe deeply, and absorb this melody into your soul.  Once each day while I'm away, please.  

I guarantee you will feel the passion.

Here is Vladimir Ashkenazy playing Chopin's Scherzo No. 2 in B flat Minor, Op. 31. It's long, it's passionate, and it's just perfect for the rest and relaxation that will soon come my way.

I hope you have some of that coming your way this summer, too. We all need a break now and then to just play. Pour your smiling heart and soul into it and enjoy!

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Season of Contrasts

"The beauty of the world has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder."
- Virginia Woolf

Bracelets for Josh - Each person received one
Green in support of organ donation, Purple in support of a cure for CF

Can my life get any more manic? I almost hate to suggest that to the Universe, for fear of getting a good laugh along with another illustration of just how moody it can be.

The last six months or so have been full of ups and downs, radical changes in the very atmosphere surrounding me, and mood swings of epic proportion. I've experienced tremendous personal losses, which have been juxtaposed with days of incredibly joyous occasions.

Even the weather patterns have reflected the manic nature of the season.  Incredibly beautiful days and gossamer nights have given way to nasty storms, damaging hail, and the worst tornado season in history. 

For me, this has been a season of debilitating lows and exhilarating highs. Has it been this way for everyone?

Another example of this zenith/nadir/zenith/nadir season is occuring this week. After a beautiful and bittersweet day in celebration of my great-nephew's life on Saturday, I rose early to accompany The Graceful One on an overnight excursion to Georgia to do a little apartment shopping in advance of her arrival in August. After our day of tears and grief and pain mixed with joy, we had a peaceful Father's Day spent in the car with The Graceful One's dad, enjoying the increasingly idyllic landscape as we drove south. We'll look at some good housing possibilities this morning, and make the nine-hour trek back to Weldon Spring later today, arriving back home (hopefully) before midnight.

I wonder what the next day will hold?

This song will now forever stay with me as "Josh's Song." The memorial for him was filled with beautiful music, sung by his brother, his step-sister, and his step-mother. All were amazing and loving tributes, but this song was the last one sung, and it was sung by the entire gathering, accompanied by Josh's friends on guitars and drums.

The final verse was sung a cappella in a poignant but joyous farewell. We love you, Joshua.

This is "I'll Fly Away" sung by Alison Kraus.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Sihining Selene

Slowly, silently, now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way, and that, she peers, and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees;
One by one the casements catch
Her beams beneath the silvery thatch;
Couched in his kennel, like a log,

With paws of silver sleeps the dog;
From their shadowy cote the white breasts peep
Of doves in a silver-feathered sleep;
A harvest mouse goes scampering by,
With silver claws, and silver eye;
And moveless fish in the water gleam,
By silver reeds in a silver stream.
- Walter de la Mare

Selene and Endymion, Moritz von Schwind
Oil on canvas, 1831

The moon was extraordinary last night, voluptuous and round, beaming so brightly it was as if Selene would climb right out of it and step down onto Earth.

According to Greek mythology, Selene is the personification of the moon, a pale beauty shimmering with light. There are several versions of her story, but the basic story is this; one night, she happened upon a very handsome shepherd asleep in a field. The man, Endymion, was the mortal son of Zeus, and Selene fell in love with him instantly. They became lovers.

Being immortal herself, Selene did not want Endymion to die and leave her alone, so she went to Zeus to ask him to make her love immortal. Zeus agreed, but on one condition...Endymion would have to sleep through eternity. Both Endymion and Selene agreed, and the handsome love of Selene lived with her through eternity, smiling in his sleep as he dreamed he held the moon in his arms each night as she visited him.

Such is the power of love, that we want it to be eternal, and we'd be willing to spend it in a dream world to have it.


It stormed here quite terribly today, but this evening is clear and bright again. I sat for a long time watching Selene rise in the sky. In all her silvery essence, she is once again casting shadows into the deep woods off the deck here in Weldon Spring, and I am mesmerized by her.

I wish you eternal love today.

The music choice today is Claude Debussy's "Claire de Lune" or (loosely translated) The Shining Moon.

I love that this video is so fittingly performed by women. I think Selene would be proud. Chien-wen Liang plays the violin, and the pianist is Mei-Ling Chieh from a recital performed in 2007 in Taiwan...enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Flying Without Wings

"The dance is a spirit. It turns the body to liquid steel. It makes it vibrate like a guitar. The body can fly without wings. It can sing without voice. The dance is strong magic. The dance is life."
- Pearl Primus

Gypsy Dancer, Stanly Meltzof,  oil on gesso panel,
Cover of The Atlantic Monthly, September 1954

Have you ever experienced that foggy, vaguely dreamy state of mind between sleep and wakefulness? You know what I mean, the time where you know you're not really awake yet, but can't figure out just where you are? Yeah, that's where I've been.  

Re-entry into the real world can be difficult after a much needed break from it. Such is the case in my return from Kansas City and the reunion marking the 40th anniversary of our high school graduation.

I've had a very hard time readjusting since arriving home on Sunday evening, in part because of the excitement surrounding the Graceful One's arrival later that night (home for a few weeks before departing for her new job in Georgia), but it can't be blamed soley on that.

I worried about this malaise for a day or so (malaise is SO unlike me), until I ran across the most recent post from my friend, Delana, in France, who writes about this same feeling in her beautiful blog, du Jour. Evidently, I'm not the only one who feels slightly displaced after a short trip to another place, and I'm grateful to Delana for expressing it so beautifully.

I found myself whiling away the days searching through pictures of the past weekend, reliving each and every moment with old friends I had long anticipated seeing, and new friends who had instantly endeared themselves to me.

Many things about this extraordinary weekend will linger in my mind for years. I'm sure I will revist them many times here at Smiling Heart, and I'm filled with gratitude at the enormous gift of time and talent that was shared.

[One entire evening of live entertainment was organized by two dear alums who gathered together some of the many grads who are musicians. This jam session was the best live music I've heard in years, and showed how one particular year in the life of a school can produce a proliferation of one 'type' of students who excel at something. For some years, it may be scientists or engineers or athletes. For our Ruskin High School Class of 1971, an extraordinary crop of artists and musicians emerged. I am in awe of them all.]

What will stay with me forever is the dancing.

Everyone who knows me knows how much I love to dance. When did that happen? Certainly not when I was in high school. In high school, I was so afraid of how I would look on the dance floor that I was more than happy to sit out most of the dances and watch the 'good' dancers do their thing. 

Somewhere between the decades of parenting and grandparenting, I cast aside the silly notion of caring what I looked like and began to just enjoy the dance. Today, while I'm no expert at dancing, I'm an ace at enjoying the dance!

I was so pleased to find that many of my classmates felt the same way. We danced like gypsies, a group of nomads moving from place to place each evening, bringing our music and drink with us wherever we went (served from the trunk of a car when necessary), and experienced the strong magic of dancing together. 

The music may have been R&B, Rock, Country or Pop, but the feeling was all gypsy. We enjoyed ourselves without reservation, flying without wings and vibrating like the strings of the guitars we listened to.

Oh, my, it was fun. It's no wonder I'm having trouble with the re-entry.

Today, I hope you enjoy the dance!

The music selection today had to be from a gypsy, for whether we were dancing to Al Green or Madonna, I heard the fire of gypsy violins as I danced.

This is the Hungarian violinist, József Lendvay, playing the "Csárdás" (a traditional Hungarian dance) by Vittorio  Monti. I've heard this piece played many times by many groups, but this one has the fire of the gyspy in it. Enjoy!  (Oh, and feel free to get up and dance!)


Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Blessing of Old Friends

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Graduation (Boy with Teacher), Norman Rockwell
Oil on canvas, The Saturday Evening Post, June 26, 1926

Tomorrow I embark upon a great adventure--the reunion with the Class of 1971 of my high school alma mater, Ruskin High.It's not just any reunion. This year marks the 40th anniversary of our trip across the dais of the cavernous R.L.D.S Auditorium to accept our diplomas. All seven hundred (and then some) of us!

Ruskin High School Class of 1971
R.L.D.S Auditorium, Independence, Missouri

I remember the day as being hot as hell very warm and the ceremony itself as interminably long very inspiring. After the ceremony, my extended family gathered at the local ice cream shop for the traditional graduation party, where we were all treated to the decadent dessert of our choice. I remember very clearly ordering a
"Brown Cow," a huge concoction of far too much chocolate ice cream, carmel and hot fudge sauce, and whipped cream in an enormous glass goblet. It was a thing of beauty.

[Unlike today--with graduates treated to all-nighters at amusement parks or recreation centers, fancy swag bags from vendors around the area, raffle prizes that make Lotto look wimpy, and huge gift checks from friends and family--graduation was taken more in stride in my day. We were appropriately fêted with cards and gifts and cash, to be sure, and there was a modest graduation party at King Louie Bowling Lanes (if I recall correctly), but there were many grads who left the ceremony to return to jobs, and many others who simply looked upon this day more appropriately as the first step into a new phase of life, no Rave  orgy bacchanalia spectacle big bash required.]

I've never been to a high school reunion before. I've been assured that there will be visual aids with the nametags (class photos attached), and even reference books yearbooks for those of us who have lost ours somewhere along the way. Thank goodness for small favors. My current visage is almost nonexistant in my photo as a senior in high school...

...and I think we all were really only embryos of our true selves back then, even though we thought we were so very grown up.

I suspect that even though I won't have instant recognition in many cases, it won't take long for the recollections to start bubbling up. Recollections of adventures in and out of the classroom, friendships forged from years together, and the delightful blessing of sometimes...every once in a while, doing fairly stupid things with those friends.

In a few minutes, I will get in my car and drive to Kansas City for four days of music, feasting, dancing, sightseeing, and picnicking with my fellow Ruskin Eagles. The days and nights will undoubtedy include more adventures, newly forged friendships, the making of memories to be recollected in the future, and almost certainly (if we are very, very lucky) a few stupid things. 

I can't wait to get started.

Today, I hope you'll call an old friend and share a memory.

You probably guessed what the music today would be, didn't you? It's the iconic music heard at virtually every graduation in America, Eward Elgar's  "Pomp and Circumstance Military March, March No. 1 in D"

Elgar wrote 39 marches for this opus, with "pomp" referring to the military pageantry of war, and "circumstance" as the condition of the actual horror of war.

None is more recognizable than the very first, but in fact, what most of us have heard is only one section of the entire march called "the trio" which is usually repeated again and again during the graduation processional.

The entire work is much more satisfying, and I  hope you'll take a listen. I chose this performance by the German Military Music Service conducted by Colonel Dr. Michael Schramm. This version is played the way it was meant to be a military march. It has all the precision, power, and strength that accompanies the military, and even though you may have heard it a hundred times, the ending of this one is enough to make you want to listen again. Enjoy!