The Bug in my Violin

The inside of a violin is a magical place. A silent, holy hall with skylights in its vaulted roof. The curved walls and the bare floor, the maker’s tag a rug in one corner. A brilliant photographer for the Berlin Philharmonic captured the resting glory of this chamber of sound. See.

Yesterday, I played my violin for my church as a sort of farewell since I am moving again. Since the zippers and clasps can be noisy in reverent moments, I did what I always do and got the violin and the stand and the music all set up well before worship began. I left it in the back, unattended. I can only assume that is how the BUG got in.

Yes, when I opened my case today, there was a huge and hideous BUG of the family of YUCK and the genus of GAH calmly sitting beside the shoulder of my Sleeping Beauty (aka, super loud obnoxiously high noise maker).

I’ve heard stories about bugs and violins. All of them involve the bugs eating the violins and/or the bow. Steeling myself, while shrieking, I rescued my violin and my bow and threw the case and the bug onto my brother’s porch. He can deal with the interloper when he gets home from work.

Panting and shivering, I reached for my violin when suddenly it occurred that the bug Might Not have Been Alone. What if this wasn’t a scout, but an invasion? What if my all of tranquility and harmony was Infested? What if the hoards of vileness had come to stay!?

I hid in the bathroom and called my mother. She says I have to put some pants on and confront my violin. She says I should shake the violin and listen for any exoskeletal buzzing. Then, if there is none, all is well. If there is, I should flee the scene, go to the movies and wait for my brother to come home and turn the evil ones out.I think I’ll do what she says.

Any minute now…any minute…


Lazy Sunday

I’m back in the saddle again. Audition season is coming up in September and I am aching not just do well, but to WIN this thing. You see, my favorite violinist, James Ehnes, is going to be in town. I have met him a few times, and aside from his showmanship and virtoustic technique, he is a great person. Unlike some artists, I have seen him come out into his audience to meet his fans. He is humorous and generous with all. And I have a chance to share a stage with him.

I’m practicing like a veritable fiend. Except when….

The Hammock to the Violinist

It’s too damn hot for Beethoven today
So cut the practice out and come and play.
Another metronomic moment more or less
Of droning, wearied, laboring excess
Won’t change the course of fortune anyway.

The snoozy, dozy Sun will melt away
The tension stored in shoulders, hands, and brain
With pulsing heat massaging out the stress;
But it’s too damn hot for Beethoven today

The music of the birds and trees at play
Inspires deeper vision, and you may
Be the better artist for a rest.
It’s a thought the Great Ones oft profess.
So cut the practice out, lie down and sway.
It’s just too damn hot for Beethoven today.

My Great-Grandfather

I went to Phoenix a few weeks ago for a job interview. It went well and all that, but, as life goes, what I will remember was not what I went there for.

Saturday morning before I flew home, I stopped at my great-grandfather’s nursing home. He will be 95 this year, and while he is looking frail, he is well, and quite alert.

A very friendly receptionist directed me to his room, and I found him watching TV with his friends. I put my hand on his shoulder and said,

“Grandpa, let’s go talk in the lobby for a bit.”

He said, “Sure!”

Now, I am the only daughter of his only granddaughter, so I assumed that my greeting and his affable acquiescence to this idea meant he knew who I was. Further conversation proved this to be untrue.

“Where are you from?”

“I live in Michigan for now.”

“My great granddaughter lives in Michigan. You remind me of her.”

“Grandpa, I am she!”

Joy flooded my grandfather’s face. The purest, warmest draught of delight I have ever experienced radiated through the room. Our laughter and happiness filled the lobby of the nursing home, and the receptionist wiped tears from her sympathetic eyes. We spoke of many things, mostly family and change and his missing hearing aids. Then he got restless, fearing I would miss my flight. I had hours to go, but after half an hour, his courtesy for my “busy schedule” required me to go.

“This was a happy reunion. I am so proud of you. I love you so much.”

And he was gone.

I’ve attempted to convey how sorry I am that I had to go, how much I wish I could have taken the job I was offered. Unlike my usual method, I didn’t employ a classical form, but rather listened to the meter and tried to harness the harmony of words to make a sort of song. I still don’t know what to name it. Suggestions are welcome.


Only a few minutes pass.

I would spend my life right here
Watching sorrow leave your face
Laughing, holding, loving you

But only a few minutes pass.

Graciously you hold your court
And give your family leave to stay
Beside your chair for half an hour

Only these few minutes last.

You are ancient, life is short
Those who love you hold you dear
I wish you’d let me stay with you

And only a few minutes pass.

Poetry Lesson.


“Oh brave new world”, oh, falsely now that rings!
Beguiled by lusting fancy for a world
Of images—mirages, and imaginings.
And by the treachery around me furled
I forfeit all. For there were harmonies
Until the curls of nighttime wafting, wind
About the trees, the blossoms, and the breeze.
Here now I, cloistered in a tower, find
A sterner couch; a colder harsher ache.
I chilled, awake; and in the unforgiven
Ages of the barren night, I quake:
As silenced truth obtrudes on me unbidden
That tho’ my fragrant island yet remains,
My armored innocence lies, by me slain.



This is the best I could do. Committing to a rhyme scheme really helps keep the thoughts from wriggling and writhing away from you like a stinky old eel. It doesn’t help the fact that it is very hard to write coherently if you are thinking of




And many other women of literature and the past who have made some bad choices and lost a lot on the way. Tends to mix up and muddle the whole metaphor thing. Watch out for that.

So what have we learned?

Commit to the rhyme. It’s not a prison, it is a parameter. Like bumpers at the bowling alley.

Pick just one metaphor. It’s nice to be able to see broadly, but you’ve got 14 lines. One thought is already more than enough.

Blankety Blank!

I wonder what can be done with a bad case of writer’s block, a deadline and a competition with my brother. Hopefully, he’s not reading this.

On my joint blog, The Egotist’s Club , you’ll find that I am in the throes of a bitter competition with my brother. It is a Sonnet Dual. The terms are fair and clear, and the deadlines are a very decent 2 weeks apart. The thing is, the original sonnet was inspired by strong emotion and written over a period of many years. Years in which I distilled my pain and focused on rhymes instead of on loss. It was a calm way to ‘dress’ the wound, both in a healing sense, and also in a literal sense. The structure of the sonnet wrapped around the naked thoughts and forced them into decency.

But this time, while I have a lovely idea, and a decent conceit, I have no such strong attachment to my topic. I haven’t got that need to write. And I can’t seem to commit to anything. I write and re write lines, so that my rhymes are yet unformed, noncommittal or else just bad. For instance, ending a line in bower and rhyming it with tower is not really such a good idea. Strong, yes. Tasteful….well…less so.

So I am hoping that Stravinsky was right. (funny typo moment: Stravinsky was rite.) “Just as appetite comes from eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning”.  So I’m off to fight with my conceit, my rhymes, the shadow of Shakespeare, and lethargy. On Sunday the thing will be accomplished.

Children’s Games

Egotist's Club

You know, I don’t usually think too hard about homophones. Context, under ordinary circumstances keeps me reading and understanding what the author means. Yesterday, there was the tiny issue of exhaustion preventing me from properly understanding my own writing. I wrote something about violin playing and bowing. Not an issue, yeah? But do I mean bowing or bowing? Uh oh.


My mind ran in tiny, paranoid, ever narrowing circles trying to remember if the my bow and bowing were spelled the same as the bow and my excellent bowing. Oh dear. Pretty soon, I couldn’t remember which I had meant. The Pernambuco and horsehair in my right arm? The gesture of humility involving elegantly folding oneself more or less in half? What on earth is haaaaaaaapening????

Well, I’ve got it figured out. There’s bow, bow, bow and bow. No big deal, yeah?

Not at all. In fact, I have…

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Sometimes, when…

Sometimes, when I am very lucky, I get to spend my work day out and about. The company I work for sends me on short (not like the last trip!) day trips to area schools. We usually take 3-4 people, a couple of instruments (one each, to be honest), some fantastic binders full of music well cataloged and organized and go play concerts for the children.

Today I went out to a school about 30 minutes away. Very easy drive. It was only foggy and snowing fast. I shrug scornfully. I and my colleagues played six 50 minute concerts for 5th and 6th graders. As always, it was a delightful experience and right up my alley. Teaching these kids about hand frames, Handel, King George I, and early jazz as anticipated by Scott Joplin the Ice Cream Truck Song Man, how better could I spend my day?

The fun part isn’t the ache in my back because I have now played a string instrument for 7 hours today. It’s not the moment when I forget I’m playing viola and auto pilot over to treble clef just long enough to derail my colleagues. The music is great, but honestly not meant for upper string trio, so that is not the fulfilling and fantastic bit. It’s the kids. The children are enthusiastic, bright eyed, and quite frankly perfectly hilarious. I have a long list of funny moments, but I want to record and share this.

Thalia: Do you guys know what opera is?
Child (dubiously): I know who Oprah is…..
Thalia: I suppose the spectacle and emotionalism could be similar… but…
(teacher cracking up, totally doubled over in a corner)