she told me to look at her pictures, that they actually came out pretty good. they did. i clicked through them and waited for my slow connection. then, it's there. a tight shot of a bright orange koi, peaking through a reflection of the sky.
"remind me to tell you about the mythology when you call," i write in the comments.
every may--less now than before, and always more in the countryside than in the city--childbearing homes will fly flags. tubular ones, shaped like the bright orange wind detectors at airports. the homes erect flag poles lined with three or five flags, each one but the bottom-most printed in the image of a koi.
the myth goes, a highly determined koi swam upstream continuously, underwent much hardship. finally, the koi swam up a gigantic waterfall and upon reaching the top, it turned into a dragon.
that's why koi are so auspicious. they represent pure potential. something so humble as a bottom-feeding, water forager could eventually transform into a mighty and mystical dragon.
it was no accident that she took that picture. she needed that koi.
in many ways, we were meant to be a scholar. high school was filled with music teachers who wanted me to just stop. i took ear-training classes with eight year olds and i couldn't seem to make it through a piano lesson without my piano teacher laughing at me. i know now, without malace, that my piano teacher was not very gifted. the problem was, i am. just not at playing the piano. but even though my piano teacher laughed at me, and i stayed in the elementary school ear-training class, the head of the prep school loved me. she always got me free tickets for concerts, arranged for me to take off-the-books composition training, asked me philosophical questions abaout performance and new music. she always wrote back to me and insisted i call her periodically. she knew my thinking was way ahead of my playing.
first semester of conservatory, i was utterly confused. but my piano-playing had improved immensely. some piano performance majors were trying to get me to audition to join a studio supervised by a faculty member. i remember that fondly--i might have studied with lydia rutstein.
eight years later, in waterloo records, i was staring at lydia's face on the cover of a used LP. i didn't have the heart not to buy it. i have never listened to it.
i sometimes wonder whether i was the last one admitted into my cohort. but it didn't end up mattering. i caught on. i wasn't the best, but i was better than average. i was a good thinker. that made up for my lack in musicality, talent, or whimsy. in hinsight, it was really only one professor who didn't treat me like he thought i could go far. he was a drunk who hated undergrads. and his music was boring.
i left music, for my own good, really. and the thing is, i have perfect pitch now. it's not very fast, and not so flashy. but if you hum a note, i can usually tell what it is. and if i hear a song, i can sing it back, several days later, in the same key and with the same precision as the original. if i went back to ear-training school, i would kill on their exams.
the one thing conservatory taught me was: talent helps, but you can really make up for in in old-fashioned hard work.
it's been a blessing and a curse, this realization. i left music just as i matered it enough to take elite classes but tnot enough to make a career of it. i could have stayed. i'd have a phd in music composition by now and would be collecting occasional checks from ascap for my obscure compositions that would get aired on local npr or college radio stations. gross.
teachers often love me. because i go from just acceptable to pretty damn good in a short amount of time. it's after that where i run into problems.
i was an academic for a bit. my writing was only so-so. and i hated reading. but i showed up and listened and pretty soon, faculty kept trying to convince me to get a phd, telling me i'm writing dissertation-quality work, that academia needed "people like me."
that was nice.
i took a production cllass and the professor told me i had made one of the best pieces of book art she had seen in a long time.
i'm a little more settled now. but still thoroughly confused. i only recently realized that i want to work on theatre that is physical, that treats the text as no more important than the movement or the set or the sound or the lights. and i'm taking a writing class?
did i mention i was once a crappy writer? not crappy--humble, but crappy--why should words even matter?
i don't really know why i'm writing. there are plenty of things that need to get written. but it feels like a distraction. i don't even know what theatre is like, really. the fact is, when i don't write, i become depressed, then nothing else happens well. i kept myself alive at SITI writing morning pages, taking copious notes, blogging about each revelation.
when i was about eight, mom told me a story. i was playing outside and obaachama watched. suddenly, she turned to my mother and said, "be careful of that one, she's smart."