Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Blissfully Multitasking

During July and August here in Kent, we have the opportunity to enjoy free chamber music concerts by the students at the Blossom Music Program. Chamber music has not been one of my favorites forms, but these students come from all over the world to study with members of the Cleveland Orchestra. They are just superb musicians and I love to watch them as well as to listen to the gorgeous music they produce. Many of the pieces are familiar, but there are always new, to me, composers, mostly contemporary. I have even learned to appreciate Hindemith ... although he was no Mozart.

A few years ago, after taking a drawing class at the university, I started carrying a sketch book around, encouraged by the class instructor to do so. There are not many places I can actually use it. I have taken it to Provincetown when visiting my daughter there. That's the ideal place to sit and draw in public, because there are so many real artists there that an old lady sitting in the middle of town with a sketch book is completely ignored. No one looks over your shoulder and asks, "Watcha doin'?", which is a good way to kill one's enthusiasm. It's also a good place because there are so many interesting people to draw wandering around.

I started taking it to these chambers concerts, and that's an ideal venue. I sit in the front of the small auditorium where there's enough light from the stage to see by. As I listen I make quick drawings, trying to catch the movement, especially in the strings, where most of the action is, so to speak. I love the way these kids sit on the edge of their chairs, their straight backed posture (except for a certain oboist a couple of years ago), how they position their legs and feet. The women all wear delicate spike heeled shoes. They are all dressed in white blouses and shirts, and black trousers or skirts. Sometimes the women wear glamorous black evening gowns. Most of them will go on to playing with symphony orchestras or professional chamber groups. Some will become teachers at conservatories. I don't know how many of them will go on the solo careers, or how that works. They all seem to me to be extraordinary musicians at this stage, but I am far from being an expert. Although some of them already appear to have a certain star quality it's hard to pick that out from what is essentially the cooperative performance form of chamber music.

At any rate, I enjoy sketching them in action. I even drew one of the page turners. They also serve who only sit and wait.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ladies With Hats

I have been volunteering at the local history museum, a repository of bits and pieces of the lives of Kentites past and present. I have been scanning scrapbooks, with the idea of reducing the vast amounts of paper materials in order to save space in the building. The actual scrapbooks will be moved to a vault at one of the banks whose director is on the board of the historical society. Some of these scrapbooks contain some wonderful pictures and stories from the 19th century and I love to read the flowery language of the newspaper accounts of engagements, marriages and deaths of people whose names live on in streets, buildings and neighborhoods. One of my favorites was from one of the fraternal organizations, the name of which I shall omit for the fol owing reason: the scrapbook contains photographs of prominent citizens in black face performing in a minstrel show put on by the organization as recently as the 1950s. Hey, it's part of the town's history!

My most recent scanning job involved the Women's Club Scrapbook from 1955-56. There were dozens of pictures of ladies in hats. This reminded me of my mother. When she was very old, retired from all of her many community activities and feeling useless, I spent a week-end collecting her many newspaper clippings and putting them all together in a scrapbook. For many of her grandchildren, who only knew her as an old lady, this scrapbook became an eye-opener. It also became on opportunity for her to look back on her life as a busy community activist. All the many pictures were of her with other women, all wearing hats and perusing documents, or tea tables or receiving plaques for work in community organizations. She was one of those women who ran things: the United Way, the local symphony, the Red Cross, the hospital volunteers, the Girl Scouts, Catholic Charities, etc., etc. She also really loved hats.

She was sure that when my father retired he would join her in these interests, but he preferred to stay home, read and listen to music and wait 'til the sun was over the yardarm for a bourbon and branch water. He complained that she should be getting paid for all that work. And she had to get used to his asking her where she was going and how long she would be gone, until she could no longer manage to drive. At that point, in her 80s, she volunteered to call "poor old people" to make sure they were all right. They were mostly younger than she.

I have not followed in her footsteps. Who could? I don't wear hats.
(That's herself on the left above. Terrible picture.)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Tribe

This blog has been neglected for a couple of weeks, mainly because Emily was here for her 30th high school reunion. And she was here without her children or husband. I remember the first time I went away without the kids and how enjoyable that was, even though I loved them dearly. No one asking me where their shoes were, or what's for dinner, or having to go to the library to look up something for a paper due the next day (this is well before the computer and Google, of course). FREEDOM! What kids? Emily had a marvelous time at the reunion and looked gorgeous and much younger than her classmates. I know everyone's mother thought the same thing, but really. It was great to have her home and we laughed a lot. She enjoyed wandering around Kent and seeing old friends.

We took a trip up to Corning to see her aunt, my wonderful sister Mary Lucille (know to others as Mary Lu Walker). Much more laughter, and Ichat visits with some of the cousins. Took in the Rockwell Museum which specializes in Western art, including Remingtons and Russells. Don treated us to a great Indian dinner down in the historic district. It was a short but very fine visit and the drive along the green hills is beautiful.

All this family visiting made me think of how lucky I am to be a part of such a terrific tribe. There 's my immediate family - my four children. There are my two beautiful grand daughters. There's my birth family - my sister and my two brothers, and the memory or our late oldest brother. There are my 22 nieces and nephews and countless great-nieces and great-nephews. These are all splendid, attractive and brilliant people, naturally, being my relatives and all. Some of them are my namesakes - fortunately as a middle name so that they will not be burdened as I have been. I did hear that darling little Sophie in Dayton wanted people to start calling her Guenveur, but I hope she has changed her mind by now. (If she insists, I wonder if I could take the name of Sophie, which I really like.)

Besides these relatives, there are dear friends, too, whom I consider part of this tribe, the kind of folks we all have in our lives who are like family, people who don't have to like you , but do. I don't mean acquaintances, but people who know you well and still like to hang out with you. That's a good thing in the world today.

Well, the house seems empty this morning now that one of my tribe is on her way back to Germany and her children and husband. They'll be glad to have her back, but we - John, Sally and I - will be missing her.