Tuesday, January 22, 2008

An Old Friend

I’ve probably complained about this at some point in my blog, but one of the most difficult challenges for me throughout this experience has been finding a creative/artistic outlet. I’m certainly not a visual artist (though my pooping stick figures are at least finally discernable), and while I’ve taken to breaking out the water color set once in awhile, it’s not nearly as satisfying as taking a dance class, or choreographing, or putting on a show.

I mean, sure, I put on my ipod and sing at the top of my lungs while I wash my clothes (much to my family’s amusement), and once in awhile I get inspired to dance around my room (yes, with my rhinestone headphones), but it just isn’t enough. I miss the adrenaline rush of the stage, the performance anxiety and then the release and joy of moving in front of an audience, and the total exhaustion and euphoria after a “kick-you-in-the-ass” dance class, whether ballet, or salsa, or modern. I miss harmonizing with other voices, and obsessing about every tonal variation. I miss throwing myself into a new character and perfecting the delivery of every line. And I miss enjoying other people’s artistic endeavors. I miss watching other performers and feeling inspired, and congratulating them and smiling at a job well done.

Before I left for the Peace Corps everyone was always saying, “oh West Africa, what a perfect place for a dancer like yourself.” After traveling to Ghana in 2005 I thought the same thing. I thought that in Senegal I would spend nights dancing ‘til I couldn’t stand any longer with the women of my village. I thought that I would hear drumming and singing everyday, and learn pounding songs. But up north, at least in my town, there is a total void of all things artistic, and creative. It’s probably been my biggest disappointment to date.

So I’ve been trying to find my way around it. Keeping this blog helps immensely and I’ve discovered a hidden love for writing and reading. I’ve also started running which, though clearly not the most “creative” thing, gives me an hour or so to clear my head, blast my music, and push my body to the edge.

But I think the thing that has helped the most has been the rediscovery of an old friend, my flute. You can probably tell (if you don’t already know) that somewhere along the line I was a big old band geek. Yep, of the dorkiest kind…I was a serious flute player. So serious in fact, that during my adolescence, I spent three summers at Flute Camp (yep, just flutes) in Carmel Valley. But in high school I had to choose between dancing and singing and the flute. The flute lost.

I left my beautiful instrument in my closet for close to 8 years collecting dust. I broke it out only once or twice during all that time in moments of extreme boredom while home for summer vacation from college. But several months ago I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was time to pick it up again. It just seemed right. Here I have a lot of down time, and what a cool thing to be able to share with people who have never even heard of a flute let alone seen or heard one played flute up close. In fact, I’m pretty sure that my family has never even heard classical music at all! So when Chris came to visit he lugged my flute, my books and my music halfway around the world (what a guy huh?)

And I’ve started playing again. Not as often as I’d like actually, because my worked has really picked up, but I can still play! It’s so empowering. I get goosebumps just thinking about it. I get totally carried away when I practice and 1 hour feels like ten minutes. Granted I’m playing my old favorite pieces and not exactly practicing my chromatic scales, but for the time being I’m allowing myself the luxury because that keeps me hooked. It feels so good to be creating again, to produce something beautiful (or sometimes not so beautiful) even if for now I’m the only audience member.

Sure I get little eyes peering in at me when I practice. I often chase them off, not because I’m shy, but because they are so distracting and giggle as they watch. My family doesn’t exactly understand what it is, or why it sounds the way it does, or what I’m reading in my music book, but they seem to respect the fact that it’s important to me. Someday I am hoping to work up the nerve to actually perform for them.

We’ll see, I have a long way to go before I’m concert ready.
But at least I’m thoroughly enjoying the ride.


Katy said...

oh....junior high band...memories. mostly bad ones though.

Shmendy said...

I have done the same thing with my violin over the years...picking it up, playing old 6th grade favorites, shoving it under the bed again. I'm glad you've picked it up. Maybe you should start giving yourself ballet class while hanging on the the edge of your bed too. love you.....