Tuesday, 23 June 2015

At the Summer Solstice...

At the Summer Solstice,
We honour the four directions
The four seasons
The year
Our life.

East - Air - Newness.

Seeds stored in dark places
During winter
Are now borne into the air 
To fly to new beginnings,
and sinking into the dark earth,
Break open with their purpose...
New ideas - dreams - wishes - intentions.

South - Fire - sun - light - warmth.

In the warming encouraging soil,
The seeds begin to germinate.
The sun and long days
Nourishing Spring's dreams into reality.
Leave the seeds sown;  
Poke around not in the soil
To see if tiny roots have sprouted.
Tread not on their potential carelessly,
Nor walk away in doubt.
Keep the soil clear of these weeds - 
The weeds of mistrust and fear.

West - Water - Nourishment - Care.

Be one with the weather,
One with the soil.
Water when dry,
Drain when wet.
Protect in the storms.
Rejoice in light rain.
And still 
Just watch.
No prodding and poking to see if...  
No checking the roots and 
Pinching the tender shoots.
And no lazy ignoring,
No arrogant assuming.
And protect from trespassers, too.
"Tread softly,
For you tread on my dreams."
Let dreams and plans grow
In trust of their process;
But care for them, too.
Yet, not too much;
Drowning will kill,
As will watching in such fear,
That, immobilised, watering is forgotten.

North - Earth - Harvest.

Then the plant comes to fruition,
The dream becomes manifest.
And the harvest begins,
Leaving seeds for the future.
Take care of these;
Drop them not in the excitement,
For they are your future,
The turn of the wheel -
Life itself.
Rejoice today,
Give thanks for yesterday,
But look to the future
And save seed with respect,
For the east wind to scatter
And the next dream to have life.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Simplicate, don't complify...

In teaching, I often say:

Don't complify!'

We smile, and maybe laugh a little.

Simplicate -
Come to a pause,
A space,

Listen within.

Notice the complifyings,
The holdings,

My hands and voice guiding you,
Their specific-ness comes into focus with practice.

Stay with them,
Let them be so.

In those tight places,

Release into the knowledge that we expand,
By design,
When we soften….

Outwards and upwards,

And allowing the time it takes,
Drop preconceptions,
Release complication,
Meet simple.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Emptying My Hands of Old Blackness….

This book carries deeply emotional memories for me…
I burned it last year when I found it again in a pile of music.
It felt good.
(Now I find it is rare and fetching $250 - damn it;
That would have felt even better…
Delightful recompense...)

This book was a passion of my piano teacher.
She thought it would make me into Ashkenazy #2.
At 19, it gave me a breakdown.

It asked the player to perform acts with the hand
That are surely as far from freedom as can be.
And I don't know what Ms Rennie's idea of strength was,
But it wasn't mine.
As for 'independence' - there was none;
I've enjoyed a flowing inter-dependence within my hands long since…
It's a lot easier when the fingers can talk with each other.

Tonight, for some reason, this book's memory came back to me.
I was watching a programme on James Galway, the flautist.
His economic quietness as he plays -
His soft, just-enough fingers on the keys -
His light but appropriate breathing -
His body still, yet peacefully energetic -
His heart pouring forth the music….

But it was his hands that really got me….
Mine curled up and ran away in  shame as I watched…
And the book of exercises danced in my mind…

'Place the index finger on middle C, depress it and hold', it said,
'And play up and down the scale several times -
D, E, F, G, A, B, C, with your third finger -
Rolling the hand over towards the thumb as you do so
In order to be able to play these notes.
This will stretch the tendons between and within index and third finger.'


And so it went on
For pages.
Fuzzy black & white photos of deformed and rigid fingers
Twisted hands, arms and shoulders
Forcing me into playing notes that tore into my hand,
and my mind….

Way beyond the hand and into my body….

"How many hours Blanch did you do this week? I want at least 2 hours a day."
Ye Gods.
Something in me knew this wasn't the way,
But I didn't know anything, did I; they said not….

She used to get my hands - like here, in this picture -

And squeeze my fingers' bends ever tighter,
Wrestling them
Until my fingertips were level with the crease
Right up between palm and fingers….
And until they were, she wasn't happy….

Please don't try it at home - it's painful, and so, so horrible.

Sometimes she'd make my fingers crack.
I'd wince.
She said it wouldn't hurt any more when I was getting it right.

Then she made me play the piano
With fingers as close to that shape as I could....

Funnily enough, I had to fight for every note;
My hands were too rigid to obey and play;
Clawing at every note just isn't the way….

I loved the piano -
But this way I hated it, too.
And I gave up -
Ran away.

A while later, Alexander lessons and teacher training….
Soften your hand.
Lengthen the fingers.
Sense - flow - feel
Finger pads touching life

And that's how it's been for 35 years.
A work-in-progress to touch with lightness,
Especially at the piano's keys -
Old habits dancing in the wings, but joy at the soft touch's kindness.

But tonight the memory flooded up again -
Watching 'Jimmy's fingers'.
And I screwed up my hands -
Not even half as much as she liked it -
To see if I was imagining it.

Oh how wrong it is…
I let my hands go again -
Something in their release revealing to me
The memory of the pain,
The constriction,
The deep hurt -
With an emotional depth.
With an apologetic ache,
My hands still emptying themselves of yet more
Of the black tightening that was inserted so long ago.

Poor woman -
          Meant well -
                    Had no idea -
                                Long gone now.

'Finger, hand and arm gymnastics at the piano'…?
No, don't ever let anyone ask that of you;
Let them ask you for music,
For heart,
For soul.

I am grateful to my hands for showing me this memory,
For I want to live with ever softening touch,
My fingers touching the world quietly,
And the world touching me gently.

Touch is where I meet the world softly,
And the piano,
And the computer, too.
So I continue to release,
Let go...