December 2014 - Diane's Solstice Newsletter

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Once again, a whole year has flown, and I find myself in a state of reflection. It has been an exciting year, an anxious year, but mainly a year of significant change. I turned seventy on April 18, had my first Tea Concert in our home, and a restaurant meal for those who could not make it to the afternoon event. The theme for the Tea concert was the different aspects of Love. I sang two arias, two Irish songs, a Sephardic song (in Ladino), a short German song and one more, the title of which I forget. Everyone enjoyed it. I find that I lose energy more quickly now, so for 2015, I will hold just a dinner or lunch, with the half-hour concert just before it.

While I keep discovering new music and enjoy performing or arranging, I am finding it very challenging to learn to notate music in digital form. Publishers will not accept handwritten scores, no matter how neatly they appear. My fear of making mistakes and/or unintentionally erasing all that I have created haunts me.

As I have understood from speaking to many other music teachers, piano and voice students are now much fewer. I have only a few students, and only one child, along with her very young brother who is just learning a few of the secrets of music. I still enjoy teaching, as many of my colleagues do, but those of us who are middle-age and older are uncomfortable with teaching students via Skype or web-cams and microphones. The young music grads are now willing to teach students via internet, webcam or 'live messenger.' The students and/or their parents pay by Paypal, which the teacher has on his/her website. I am not comfortable with that arrangement either. It looks like I, like many others, will gradually 'fade away.'

Peter's retirement is going well. He is volunteering to help in concerts and in other ways. I am pleased that he is reaching out to the community. He is using his organizational talents and experience to enable instrumental ensembles and others to have bigger audiences.

I've been involved with several music and arts organizations doing outreach, public relations and networking. The organizations are the Young String Performers Foundation,, PAL-Ottawa, Poets' Pathway, Harmelodic Club (no web site), and Arts Night (First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa). This keeps me busy.

I've also been busy collecting poetry to paraphrase for piano and/or other instruments. Several of these poems by others will become songs for different voice ranges. One I will begin composing as soon as I've finished this newsletter is Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night". This poem has become ever more meaningful for me as I have grown older. Here is the poem:

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Many of my friends and family have noticed that our senses have changed over the last few years. Mine have been no exception. I've had two hearing aids since Spring 2010, and now two cataracts, one of which will be removed in June. My knees are not very useful, and I must buy a cane for the winter, with removable grippers (because of the vast amount of ice we have in Ottawa). I still attend aquafit classes three times per week. There are others in the class like me. A few have canes already. I used to think I would never be caught walking with a cane, but friends have convinced me that it has now become necessary for me to have one. I have always thought that I must be perceived as strong: strong voice, strong mind, strong muscles. I thought I'd always be able to conquer any obstacle, any challenge I undertook, or placed on me. I am now finding several of these challenges almost impossible to overcome. Because of this, I'm no hero to anyone. I am, however, determined to do what I can to fight against my physical weaknesses, so as to achieve as many of my objectives as I can.

Moire, my daughter, is now a full professional. She has a full-time position as a family therapist in Montreal. I am very proud of her.

2014 has been a year of intense fighting in the Middle East and uprisings continuing in the Ukraine, along with religious battles in Pakistan. I fear we may be close to another world war. We cannot afford to have another, from any perspective. It will be the destruction of human civilization if it happens. By the number of dystopian novels, movies and TV dramas, it is evident that many people believe that by our mass abuse of the environment and/or our continual regional and territorial fighting, we will bring destruction on a vast level, with an extremely high price for our universal well-being. I have been deeply concerned about this, because our own government does not seem to wish to develop adequate skills or programs to improve this situation.

Most people do not realize that writers, especially poets, have an intense and insightful perspective on how to become more active in bringing peaceful action and sustainable peaceful results. A well-known American poet has some ideas.

Here is her poem about it:

Making Peace by Denise Levertov

A voice from the dark called out, "The poets must give us imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar imagination of disaster. Peace, not only the absence of war."

But peace, like a poem, is not there ahead of itself, can't be imagined before it is made, can't be known except in the words of its making, grammar of justice, syntax of mutual aid

A feeling towards it, dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have until we begin to utter its metaphors, learning them as we speak.

A line of peace might appear if we restructured the sentence our lives are making, revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power, questioned our needs, allowed long pauses. . . .

A cadence of peace might balance its weight on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence, an energy field more intense than war, might pulse then, stanza by stanza into the world, each act of living one of its words, each word a vibration of light -- facets of the forming crystal.

--Denise Levertov, "Making Peace" from Breathing the Water. Copyright © 1987 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. Source: Breathing the Water (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1987)

While I realize that many of us are facing challenges unique to our generation, our offspring are also having their own inner and situational struggles. What is amazing and reassuring for me is that the love, memories and affection which have bound our friendships, families and groups are strong and lasting. We still have our sense of humour, our unique idiosyncrasies, foibles and mundane routines. These we enjoy and cherish within ourselves and each other.

I wish each and all of you a warm and enlightening Solstice Season. I support you and wish you success in fulfilling your dreams and goals in 2015. Each of us is much more than the sum of our parts. With each new 'part' I'm discovering, I have more and more laughs!

Love and Joy!


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