Archive for the ‘Transformation’ Category

New Atoms in my Garden

July 20, 2009

They say deaths come in threes.  This week’s trifecta included Walter Cronkite, Frank McCourt and Siegfried Baumgartner.  I knew them all.  Well, everyone knew Walter Cronkite.  But I did feel somewhat closer to him having student taught under his sister in St. Joseph, Missouri when I was 22 years old. He defined television news for my generation. He epitomized a time when the news was the news as opposed to todays’ 24-7 edutainment cycle. I met Frank McCourt the first week on my job at the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.  He was a featured speaker at our big Kennedy Center 75th Anniversary gala having won the Pulitzer Prize for his poignant memoir Angela’s Ashes. We bonded over the fact that his brother Malachy’s wife Diane had done the carpentry work in our old Waterside apartment.  Malachy and Diane had been close to my sister-in-law in their fights for the rights of the mentally retarded in New York. I remember the twinkle in his eye and his Irish brogue when he addressed the gifted young writers in the audience, “Ye’re lucky. Ye found yere voices ere-ly.” I loved that he had been a beloved creative writing teacher at Stuyvesant High School and that like my own father, he had been able to attend college on the GI Bill. Siegi Baumgartner was a handsome Austrian married to the lovely Liliane from France.  His mother Vera had arranged home-stays for the group of high school students I took from suburban Kansas City to Europe in the summer of 1976, my first trip across the pond. She did this out of gratitude to the Americans who brought food and hope right after World War II.  They were among the first Europeans I actually came to know as friends. We exchanged Christmas cards and letters before the days of email.  I returned to Austria several times to visit them. We spent a magical evening at the Vienna Opera hearing Teo Adam in Meistersinger von Nuremberg.  It included a two hour break for dinner and the most transporting finale I have ever witnessed. After losing touch with Siegi and Lili I found them again through the Internet.  We had hoped to meet in France this summer to compare life notes.

I am moved by the passing of these three pieces of the puzzle of my life’s journey. I celebrate their lives. I am thankful for their gifts to me. As I look at my garden on a beautiful July day, I have the feeling that some of their newly released atoms may be floating around– the bud coming from the lotus in the water lily pond, or the tiny yellow flower on the heirloom tomato plant or, further away, possibly even in the birth cries some newborn somewhere who will in turn touch many lives in a positive way.


Volunteering Fuels Creativity!

January 28, 2009


Kelly's Concert

She appeared at my door on a cold night in January and greeted me with, “Hi, I’m Kelly, I’m here for the reception!” To which I responded, “Welcome, but the reception is tomorrow night!” I insisted that she come in, warm up and share a drink and promise to attend the reception for the recipients of the 2008 European American Musical Alliance (EAMA) Composition Prize the following evening. And that’s the reason I ended up at a heavenly concert of French chamber music on January 26  at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church performed by the incomparable Kelly Hall-Tompkins (violin) and her colleagues Terrence Wilson (piano) and Briget Kibbey (harp) on an equally cold night.

I agreed to serve on the EAMA board last year because I knew that I could help the organization connect to New York City high school students who aspired to music composition. I knew it would take some time but I never realized how it would enrich my own life by reconnecting me with some of our nation’s most talented artists, composers and music educators. Philip Lasser, American composer and Juilliard faculty member and his wife Pamela founded and administer the EAMA program, which provides emerging composers with an intensive composition studio experience each summer in Paris. And last year EAMA began the EAMA Prize program to encourage and recognize new classical works. See their Web site at and the EAMA Prize site at

The night Kelly Hall-Tompkins came to my house a night early, I was rewarded with a new personal relationship with a gifted artist and passionate crusader for classical music and a new CD, Kelly’s second (In My Own Voice). See Kelly’s Web site for future performances or her innovative organization that was created to bring chamber music performances to homeless shelters in NYC

I’m sure glad I volunteered to help EAMA!!!

Joan Baez Finds Her Groove

October 29, 2008

OK, I admit it.  I REALLY didn’t want to go hear Joan Baez at Town Hall last night.  Bob and I went to see her about 15 years ago at the Beacon and she was all weirded out trying to both tap in and distance herself from her Bob Dylan days.  But marriage is a partnership, yes?  So he agreed to go to the Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific on Thursday and I agreed to go to Joan Baez last night.

From the beginning it didn’t look good.  We arrived in a cold, downpour and there was no line at the will call window of the box office.  Then slowly some very old people started to show up.  We must have gotten late-released house seats as we ended up to the right of center on the third row! It looked like there were lots of empty seats and I figured everyone just had election fatique or was too old to come out.

Within the last minute before the performance started, the hall was nearly full.  Three folk/blues/rockabilly looking dudes walked out with an elegant, thin woman with stylish shortly-cut, gleaming silver hair. She was dressed in a sleek black silk pants ensemble with a fringed, gold scarf wrapped once around her neck with one piece draping down her left side.  She wore simple, small drop diamond earrings and a matching pendant necklace.  “Is that her?” I asked Bob who has adored her since he was in high school.  I sort of still pictured the long dark-haired, Amazing Grace Joan Baez.

Then she started to sing. The voice was clear, straightforward and unforced but certainly recognizable as that of Joan Baez.  At one point she stopped to chew a throat lozenge and take a drink.  She remarked, “The voice is a gift.  My job is maintenance and delivery.”  She was poised and so comfortable in her current skin.  She was funny and she didn’t pander to anyone.  Her political voice was kept predominantly to her music both old and new ballads except for the moment when she asked the audience to  give it up for Obama.  After the tumultuous roar subsided, she laughed, “I can see we have a diverse house tonight.”

I guess she has recently released a new album. Two of the songs from that album were particularly moving, God is God and Day After Tomorrow. Those just got added to my iTunes collection.

I loved having my expectations shattered.  I loved seeing an “older woman” revel in her current capacities and accept her limitations.  I loved the power of the arts and artists to transform our lives.

Election as Transformation

October 25, 2008

There is a lot at stake in the U.S. Presidential election.  John McCain and Barack Obama are both good men who sincerely want to serve their country, but I feel that we must elect Barack Obama. Following his election we have to reach out to the bitter McCain supporters to convince them to work together under Obama’s leadership to bring about the transformation that this country so desperately needs.

We need to fundamentally change our very way of life as individuals, communities and as a nation if we are to continue to offer the world’s best hope for the future as we have in the past 100 years.  We need creativity, innovation and compassion to recreate our nation and revitalize its legacy.  Our prosperity has been our greatest challenge as it has turned us into a consumer democracy that has diverted our focus inward instead of causing us to see ourselves as part of a community, a state, a nation and an entire world.

I believe that Barack Obama can be the transformational leader that we need.  His very existence as a combination of races and cultures is a metaphor for his potential to lead this transformation.  His steady and thoughtful demeanor can stop the cycle of drama that has been our political scene for the last 25 years or more that has been fueled by a media turned into an entertainment infomercial selling us consumer products and services we don’t need. He is both intelligent and compassionate. He is our last best hope.

Obama will face many challenges. His most urgent goal must be to bring the country together in a way that both challenges and empowers individuals to commit to the greater good.  That may mean we can’t buy as many things, or use as much gasoline, or eat as many unhealthy foods.  And it doesn’t have to feel like deprivation.  Personally, I will rely on my wonderful background in the arts that has fed my creativity and my soul.  We all need to find our own personal hook and start being part of the solution.

Let’s do the right thing for once!

Tilting at Windmills

September 25, 2008


In La Mancha

In La Mancha

I studied Cervantes Don Quixote as a teenager in Missouri.  At that time, Franco was the dictator of Spain and I was sure I would never actually see the La Mancha plains or the famous “gigantes” de La Mancha.  Sitting under those windmills with my son who is living and studying in Spain and who has far surpassed my Spanish speaking ability, made me realize the power of great literature to provide the spark of inspiration.  Now these wonderful windmills are the symbol of my own personal struggle against the gigantes that life has put in my path. I did, in fact, continue my love of the Spanish language and culture.  I have travelled in Spain and now this language and culture is providing inspiration and life experience to my son.  Donde está mi caballo, Rosinante?

Coming out of the chrysalis!

August 7, 2008

So, here I am in cyberspace. I am sitting in my garden and watching delicate butterflies float among the flowers and feeling as if I have emerged in a new dimension. I am the lotus opening in the sunlight.

Open and enlighten!

Open and enlighten!