I am a dedicated writer, so I appreciate the vast potential of words. They can create irrevocable damage; they can also illuminate mysteries and secrets. They are as apt to build a mighty life as take it down. Well-chosen, measured words are powerful enough to divide or unite nations. They teach us much about the natural and human-made worlds we love so much to inhabit. And words can convey crucial needs and flesh out our dreams.
It has been impossible to imagine a life without the written word since childhood when I was swept up by an early passion for playwriting, then poetry, soon followed by short and longer stories, and finally, as an adult, novels that wait to one day be shared with many more. A few things have been published. But the joy of creative journeying has been far greater than words alone might have allowed.
Before all those words there was, for me, a way of being that was based largely on an absence of language spoken or syllables committed to paper. There was music. Because my father was a classical musician, conductor and music teacher, our home was filled with music from morning until night. All five children played instruments as early as possible, some before school age. I sang, then played cello and sang, and when I could wrest the baby grand piano away from my siblings and father, I would noodle around on the ivory and ebony keys, making up tunes with a jazzy beat or melancholic drama. I played, studied and when sleeping, dreamed music. In those otherworldly places within mind and spirit were childish symphonies that grew from happy hours climbing trees and floating upon clear lakes, figure skating against the frosty wind and playing kick the can with friends. I was trailed by music all day long. As I grew up, my cello warmed under my hands and spoke to me in deeper melodies. For a short time, the harp intrigued me and a guitar found its way to me, unleashing songwriting attempts. Singing often felt more natural than speaking. I understood that music was God’s language, and I was a willing believer.
Where there was music, dance surely followed. It didn’t always require the stereo, radio or a sibling’s instrumental accompaniment–just a tune whirling in my mind that set my feet sliding, leaping, spinning. I had discovered the best of both worlds: melody in motion. When multitudinous scarves were added, I was a firebird, a lowly flower seller, a warrior princess, a small, disheveled empress of all. Rhythm and melody moved my body as much as my heart and I felt freed of gravity.
Equally wordless was drawing. I had a small talent, but I did have vision. I drew what I observed but often I let the pencil or pen carry me away, as it seemed to move of its own accord. Houses became a near obsession and I could not have explained why. But they had substantial possibilities with their sun-reflective windows, their elegant porches, the way the chimney gave forth ribbons of smoke, the interiors sketched carefully so that I might wander from room-to-room as eye followed pencil. Add paint and an entire idea turned into a living thing. Later, photography would become a medium I loved. Visual arts were as magic as music and dance.
I learned I could think of something, then provide it a life of its own, or, rather, simply give rein to imagination and let it express itself. Creating required work, but it most often felt like play. Discipline only increased the pleasure.
I might have felt lonely even within a large extended family of musicians and other creative souls, but there were always summer camps. When I arrived at Interlochen Music Camp in Michigan it was as if I had stepped into the only universe that ever mattered: it was like home except populated by hundreds of youth and adults from all over the world. Everywhere were people making art: music, theatre, dance, visual and language arts. It was here that I realized the vast scope of the fine and performing arts. It was here that I learned that while language had its place of pride in my heart, all other arts cast a similarly powerful spell on me. I watched (and later joined) the dancers with awe, their graceful, sweaty bodies illumined by sunshine refracted from the lake beyond. I performed on open-air stages under the pines and was moved by the majesty of Beethoven and the delicacy of Debussy. Art studios drew me with the heady scents of linseed oil, turpentine, clay; there was the flash of a welder at work, the intent gaze of a jeweler as she aligned gems with silver and gold. Stage plays shaped up with each rehearsal; I left light-hearted and inspired.
And not the least of my experiences occurred in the practice rooms beneath great trees and shimmering sky, when my cello and I became intimate allies in the effort to make good music. And my singing voice? It got to ride with the wind, carried high on the wings of birds.
I fell wildly, mysteriously in love with the arts from a young age, with the act of simple or complex creation. Language has given voice to what matters most to me and storytelling never fails to surprise, challenge and keep me company. But all the arts have saved me more than once and made beautiful this world in which we each struggle, strive and hope. Like wise spiritual teachers, they have mentored me every step of the way as they do countless others.