August 2021: covid-delta, inspiration-drain, beluga-song

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Fourteenth Pandemic Post August 2021

Dear Family and Friends:

Just as many of us thought we were coming to the waning period of this pandemic, the Delta Variant made itself known. Now there is no chance of even a possible time when this pandemic will cease. There have been so many changes in our society, several of them constructively promising. Other changes have been negative. One of the changes I’ve seen are those of communicating accounts of mundane or things and events we have usually taken for granted.

The Sunday before last, (August 8th), we finally were able to visit Peter’s sister and partner in Kingston for lunch. I have been a travel letter writer to a longtime friend when we go on car trips for an hour or more. I was so pleased to be able to write to her, but I couldn’t see to write in the same spirit I used to compose. It was not the highly ‘creative’ one I had no problem writing. I realized that this pandemic has affected me in that I feel often somewhat numb. I know that not only my age and chronic health issues are one of the reasons, but this long pandemic has undermined my inspirations. My imagination feels subtly trapped. When my friend and I conversed last evening, she mentioned the noticeable differences in my letter from how I usually write.

I believe many of us have felt these changes within ourselves in diverse ways. The challenge we face now is how to overcome them. How can we triumph over this force of nature which has managed to infuse our minds subversively for so many months?

I have no answers to this problem. I hear from family and friends the fears and apprehensions that I also feel. Perhaps I can make myself decide that there is no ‘when’ about the ceasing of this virus, and that I can then rid myself of the fear of it. I don’t know, but it is the only possible ‘solution’ I can believe in right now.

I would enjoy hearing from you how you are coping with this and what you have tried to plan for the next months and years to do with your life and how you wish to try to go about it.

I am sending you a poem of mine written in 1988 to a former friend who was a performing dramatic mezzo-soprano. I was researching cetaceans (whales, belugas etc.), and felt strongly that they are one of the mammalian species which helped us to evolve to sing. One of the periodicals to which I subscribed had several articles on belugas. Those articles inspired the poem I wrote. I sent it to them and it was published. I also trained as a soprano, (but haven’t felt much like singing during this pandemic). I’ve composed songs and have only recently begun to sing while I play songs on the piano. I gave my last public performance including my singing November 23, 2019. Being 77, I don’t think I will be self- producing concerts anymore. Below is a paragraph I sent with the poem to that periodical:
“I really enjoyed the article, and , because I am both a musician (singer, keyboardist, composer), and poet, I decided to send you this poem I dedicated to a friend of mine, who is a mezzo-soprano, in 1988. Both she and I love animals. It was her personality shown in her behavior, which enabled me to compare her to a beluga. We are both of an age now, where we have noticed great changes in the way voice students are taught to be professional singers. Yes, there are some good strategies used, especially with the emphasis on much more sight reading, but, learning to really integrate material is often , now, not stressed. We mourn this, and I believe young singers will never achieve integrity , as the belugas do, in their ‘inner song’, unless they go on th e personally ‘spiritual’ journey of listening to every other singer’s ‘inner song’, and learn to remember it.
So, here is my poem.
If you decide to publish it, please let me know what format to send it in.
Thank you for your wonderful article.
Diane Stevenson Schmolka.”

Requiem for a Beluga

There is before me a tundra which will likely remain barren the ocean which has become the cistern of time has known only grief since you left

I see you now a figure beneath the moon presiding over your children

I remember when we created language which biologists could only cite with dashes and bleeps your lips pressing against warm currents met the trough at surfaces they could never reach while we chased paradigms of shadow creating a whirlwind of new phrases krill and algae your applause in the vibrations of fresh water

Now you are ordered into the aquaria of culture barred and observed as each movement changes your dimensions contracts them into statues

They see now only a specific foreshortening to them you are merely an emblem of what real dance was before

You are my presence - your swiftness sweeps the carcasses of bears aside and lion-hearted you stalk the hidden places of your dwelling to sustain the ballet of sequences

Your mind swims continually through bannisters and windows in salt and sunny air

Though you cannot now return home a fragment of song emerges continually reworking your positions to skip in living waters recycled to complete apothegms for new heirs

Around my neck I will wear you always

©1988 Diane Stevenson Schmolka

Page last modified on August 17, 2021, at 04:42 AM