It’s been years since I needed an alarm clock to get up in the morning. My body sprints when the clock’s hands strike six for some reason. That exact second is when I’m spared from the trauma of a fall from a ravine or a monster who was an inch away from killing me…aahh! Why do dreams always leave me feeling like I am someone else? This morning was different from all the other mornings. My body feels heavy under the sheets, sore all over. Heavy drapes are still drawn but thin beams of sunlight manage to escape through the gap between its hem and the window ledge. The rigor of daily rehearsal in the last twelve weeks must have taken a toll on me. The process of preparing for my event was more difficult than usual. I didn’t have the comfort of support from my network of artists who are always willing to be part of my production team - makeup artists, hair stylists, musicians, photographers, videographers, rehearsal coordinators, etc., etc. I then took a sense of relief in knowing that this event was supposed to be simpler. There was no stage, spotlights, sound system, and the like. The venue was a restaurant, called the Fieldhouse.
Since loyalty is one of my strong traits, my art came first in the order of priorities during the past several weeks. Keeping my inspiration at its highest level turned into a survivor’s game. I could not afford to neglect the mundane tasks so I learned to convince myself that doing laundry, housekeeping, and cooking provide a spiritual space for my routine meditation. Each time I loaded up the washing machine I murmured to myself, “Meditation is good for singers.” Humbly I continue to learn and strive to master this exquisite balancing act that requires my stamina, endurance, and most importantly, passion. Have I mentioned the word love? Yes, love.
In the middle of our living room, here I am creating my own Rusalka character while rehearsing my moves to depict a water nymph who is in love with a human prince, my husband walks by asking, “Where’s my navy blue, long-sleeved shirt, the tailored one?” Instantly, my water nymph character leaves the room and disappears…even after my husband apologized for his obliviousness, it took me a good fifteen minutes to regain my character.
Fast forward to the day of the event.
I arrived in this city eight months ago. I was told by friendly locals that walking to one’s destination is the preferred mode of transportation. My makeup artist and hair stylist are located four blocks from where I live. Under a 40-degree chill with a light but steady drizzle I braved the damp streets, carefully avoiding taking involuntary showers from vehicles piercing puddles. So imagine this – with my hair freshly curled to perfection, covered with an inch of hair spray, I struggled with my dilemma of whether to cover it with my jacket’s hood or just let it loose and risk acquiring the post –typhoon look. I had to be at the venue one hour before my guests arrive. In my flowing red gown and fancy pair of shoes, again I walked another three blocks to reach the Fieldhouse. There were “Oh’s!” and “Ah’s!” from everyone upon entering the venue. Flimsy silk curtains hanging from the ceiling gave the place an air of grandiosity. I was impressed by the magical touch of the interior designer who paid meticulous attention to the minutest details of her creation for many hours. I saw my friends in a different light – each one working their tasks while wearing perpetual smiles. They formed my new production team! That moment I suddenly realized that I was not alone.
This is my life. This is what a performing artist’s life is all about. A lifelong process of mastering an art form to gain one glorious moment. Or if one is fortunate enough – many glorious moments. What is the driving force behind my desire to share my art with others? Perhaps it is the belief that every single effort spent is worth it. I love taking my audience to a different realm of existence, where their perspective covers only the beautiful. I make them take a pause from the worldly business we all do to make the bucks. Why the fantasy? Perhaps it offers a break away from the commonplace. Perhaps the transformation from the ordinary to extraordinary happens both in the artist and in the audience. The resultant connection is my reward.
Music must be nature’s gift for us to use as a vehicle through which healing messages are transported to our innermost core. Poetry must be a form of music with another variation. They are the rhythm and beats tapping on our primitive impulses. Flowing, moving, touching.
Music is my voice and poetry is my tool. Below are the words I wanted to tell my guests last Saturday evening but could not, as time has eluded me as usual.
Why poetry? Is poetry only intended for certain types of people - the romantics, the dreamers, the weird ones, the writers or those who like to escape from reality now and then? Yet why is poetry considered beautiful and healing? Why does it offer a calming influence on our mood? And what is poetry anyway?
To me poetry can be almost everything.
Poetry is waking up every morning, simply breathing to live another day. Poetry is seeing my little child looking up to me. Poetry is holding my newly born grand baby. It is seeing the sun rays spread on my window greeting the blooms, it is looking up to the moon and realizing that I am an insignificant creature in this vast universe. Poetry is also reaching out to someone in need, sharing time with someone lonely. Poetry is listening to a person’s story. Poetry can sing all human experiences – excitement, pleasure, desires, and dreams! It also speaks about sadness, loneliness, and isolation. For how can we truly feel the ecstasy of joy if we have not experienced the depths of grief and sadness? How can we bask in the light if we have not seen darkness?
I read a few poems from my book. Each time I finished reading, the audience remained completely silent. Finally I announced, “You are allowed to applaud.” Laughter filled the room. The poems I just read must have sounded too dark for an applause, I thought. Few guests volunteered to read and others had personal questions directed at me. The photographer captured a few more entries for her journal. Then I said ”goodnight.”
My job for the evening was done. My reward? I have touched forty-one souls in one glorious moment.