Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Neither brass nor bass

Intrigued by the idea of a organ recital with hand bells and brass, I went over to Grace Presbyterian Church to see the advertised concert. The organist, an enthusiast and charming woman was the star of the show. She introduced each piece with a short explanation of the music and it's origin, facts about the composer and why she chose the piece. Designed to show off the organ, several of the compositions were quite showy and made good use of the entire key board and the bass pedals. After she finished each piece with a flourish, she'd come back to the microphone, almost breathless and make a little comment about her playing, "That really warmed my fingers up!" or "That one is a real challenge!" She was adorable. She also played a bell solo and was part of the bell ringing ensemble.

I was fascinated by the gloves the bell ringers wore and did a little research when I got home. Some play the bells "naked" - without gloves, others claim gloves are necessary to protect the bells from oils and sweat on the hands. 

Turned out there was a typo in the flyer advertising the concert. It wasn't brass, but rather bass accompaniment and it turned out that the bass player had an emergency and couldn't be there. No brass and no bass either!

Enthusiasm makes a huge difference no matter the endeavor. I enjoyed the concert and the almost-one-woman show very much. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Aidez moi!!

Every year I swear I'll get my taxes done in January. Then I shoot for April. Next thing I know it's September and my accountant tells me I face a 25% fee increase if my information isn't in her hands by September 15th. There's nothing like a good deadline - one with a bit of pocket pain attached, to make you finally face the music.

Why am I writing a blog entry instead of drilling away at the paperwork until it's done? Because nothing brings out the procrastinator in me like this one task. I can think of at least a hundred things that should take precedence.  After the hundred things are done, I get an attack of ADD.  I can't focus on anything for longer than 30 minutes without taking a break, which leads to a distraction and then another break and so on. I've read that there's some kind of ego depletion phenomenon that occurs when excessive procrastination sets in and I believe I suffer this. Who am I anyway and why am I trapped here wallowing in paper?

Every year I imagine the dreaded audit is imminent.  In my nightmare scenario, I mail in the return and some young zealot gets hold of it and finds hundreds of errors. A viciously precise scrutiny ensues and a precious year of my life is wasted justifying my $19.95 subscription to Food and Wine magazine.

As I shuffle the papers around, I find myself gradually getting numb. My tongue went first in this year's case of  tax paralysis, starting with a specific cluster of nerves down the middle - I can barely cry out, "Save me from all of this....someone, anyone!" In other years, 1992 if I remember correctly, the finger nerves, specifically the nerves involved in gripping a pencil, failed utterly. In '04, I couldn't keep that rubber finger thingy on and it would fly off my paper flipping finger like a boomerang or something out of a Kung Fu movie. If I was prone to headaches I suppose I'd develop one of those. Stressed, my body is sending out random alarms. I need a Canadian aspirin or two (they put some codeine in the mix) and I have a bottle of 500 reserved specifically for the temporary relief of the pain in the ass our tax code has become.

My husband took one look at me a few minutes ago and decided to go to KFC and pick up some fried chicken for dinner. I'm headed for the wine bottle.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Truth and Fiction: Clara Peeters

Osais Bert was waiting outside the door with the cloak over his arm, pacing back and forth and ruining her concentration.  She sighed, reaching for her loupe and glass. When would he cease his hounding? Hunching over the canvas she used her finest brush to finish her own reflected image in the silver candle stick.  The idiot Osais could try 1000 times and never reach the perfection she could achieve.  In the atelier, when a detail was necessary Clara was summoned. The first and only woman to ever work here her steady hand and perfect eye could capture the smallest, finest details. And the master reaped the benefits in prized commissions and higher fees. He needed more money.  After all it was 1607 and inflation was rampant since the Burghers had money to lend and the Church no longer counted usury a sin.

More frequently now the studio was accepting private commissions.  Gone were the days of painting only for Rome, recreating ponderous Biblical scenes to hang in obscurity in dark churches, monasteries and clerical residences.

When Clara was twelve she began painting insects. Her lady bugs were marvels under the glass - she captured every hair, every detail. Her reputation and genius quickly grew. Clara's flies were unequaled - layers and layers of paint were built up with her fine sable brushes; textures and light grew with impasto until the viewer was mesmerized.  Later she applied the same technique to painting other insects, grasshoppers, crickets and spiders; then small objects: mirrors, vases, thimbles. Now three years later, Clara - a woman - barely more than a child, was acknowledged not by all, but by a growing number as a skilled studio painter. The cloaking ritual, sneaking her into the studio in the day and out at night was still necessary. Osais felt the need to hide her from plain view to protect her honor although more and more often commissioners requested a painting by "the girl".
And now at last she was painting a whole canvas in the new still life style, the style she was developing. The burghers, trying to achieve immortality desired records of their possessions  - a way to live on beyond the grave. Newly wealthy, they loved paintings of dark rooms packed with their treasures from top to bottom.  But this one was a happier canvas. Stepping back she assessed the almost completed current work. Commissioned for the wedding of a Burgher's daughter, she had carefully chosen the most iconic objects to work on the canvas in her lovely composition, which radiated lasting beauty and was neither overly religious nor profane.

As the painting would be the prized possession of the young couple and their most important wedding gift, she was careful to include the pieces the couple loved along with  symbolic food and objects associated with love and marriage. A long twig of rosemary was hung with tiny ornaments, perfectly painted. Rosemary with its long lasting strong scent represented the persistence of young love. The beautiful tiny ornaments, exquisitely painted gave Clara the opportunity to exhibit her great skill.  She liked to include a candle light for balancing the glow on the canvas and she was pleased with the soft light on her scene. Just as life and love progress, candles represented the flare of passion, followed by radiation of a constant light, flickering occasionally and then finally simply dying   Two large wedding pastries rested on the marital plate and the "P" was the initial of the new couple but she painted it with extra joy as it was her own last initial. The two glasses represented the bride and groom. Their wedding ring at the edge of the plate added whimsy to the composition and balanced the magnificently painted fly creeping across the tablecloth in the background, the unsuspecting insect being in imminent danger of discovery, swatting and extinction; it represented and reminded the viewer of the the brief time we have on earth.

She wiped away a bead of sweat as she worked her own tiny reflection into the candle stick. Clara enjoyed painting this quirky signature, known only to her and the only way she could get credit for her work. Soon after this trademark was discovered by a discerning eye,  the burghers began to request that she include it in all her paintings for authenticity.

She turned back to the canvas to draw more tiny lines which the waning studio light revealed were wanting. After a few moments, her eyes raised and she met the burning, impatient glance of Osais. Her day was over. Clara reluctantly stood up from her chair.