january, 2012

Mon, 02 Jan 2012 18:03:56 -0800

That it was close to 70 degrees and gloriously sunny on New Year's Day in San Francisco helped. That my house, though strewn with dirty champagne flutes, expired Old Fashioneds, and remnants of munchies, was full of friends when I woke up (both those who had intended to crash, and those too drunk to make it back across the bridge) did too. My new gold leggings shone gleefully in the afternoon sunlight, and yesterday on the walk down 18th Street to brunch, my misanthropy index (Emily's term) was at zero.

I love New Year's: Both eve and day are equally affirming for me, the former an intentional homecoming and celebration of things I've chosen; the latter a fresh, unencumbered start. Yoga on Penultimate Day and the 31st stretched hamstrings and heartstrings both (somehow urdhva dhanurasana will do that to you); later, mere hours before 2012, I achieved closure on my recent palpitations with a frank discussion sitting (aptly) beneath my closet's chandelier; thus disburdened, I could focus wholeheartedly on my party and my friends. And the homecoming this year was both sweetened and deepened by my new permanence: Usually, when my late-December flight from the Midwest touches down at SFO and I relax into the back seat of a cab, watching the city lights reflected in the bay as we speed up 101, part of my thoughts go to the evanescence of this Californian fairyland; arriving from Madison (from Chicago (from Berlin)) last Thursday, those thoughts were answered by the surging remembrance that I now own a house, and, the city so reified, I may stay. Funny how paying property taxes affects the soul.

Nothing feels urgent today, or yesterday. I love the liminal space we afford ourselves at the end and beginning of each year. Work and its monotonically increasing to-do list begin again tomorrow; the Symphony Chorus starts its Debussy madness tonight; I'll barely have a free evening for two weeks. But for just a few days (after the few weeks of Berlin-then-family), to lift out of the n dimensions of one's life and view it from the n+1st, to do nothing but breathe in yoga and celebrate one's home and friends, and to dance through the Mission in brilliant gold leggings for coffee, pumpkin beignets, and Bloody Marys with those you love: What a gift!

Mon, 16 Jan 2012 21:18:20 -0800

Saturday night, we sang the last page of the Debussy in the increasingly-blinding rising footlights, our final Alleluia! triumphantly corroborated by the orchestra, and then darkness. Applause. Bows for everyone: MTT; the dramaturge; the counterintuitively un-waifish dancer whose image had ecstatically writhed on fringed scrims above the orchestra; our Ragnar, in tails just for the ovation. As we filed out of the chorus balcony, Elaine called to me and pointed to the first box, where Daniel was putting on his sweater.

I haven't seen him in nine years -- not since he was my college orchestra conductor, since we had doughnuts and read through the Brahms Op. 120 viola sonatas, No. 2, on the concert-grand Steinway in Lang with the green-leafed arboretum shining up at us through the glass back wall at the tail end of my senior year of Swarthmore, when we both probably should have been studying. He yelped as I stuck my head into the box, said I hadn't changed at all (but I found a wrinkle on my face later that night! But I'll take it), and we started jabbering like we'd just finished the last bar of the Brahms in 2003.

Over a glass of Bandol rosé (okay, two) at Zuni after, we compared notes from the last decade: Where we'd been, who we'd played with, current jobs, my house. Old friends are always wonderful to catch up with, especially when neither party is substantially changed from whatever chemistry made the friendship work to begin with. Even more gratifying than having wine in San Francisco with my decade-ago orchestra conductor, though, was the underlying continuity he represents for me: He knew me -- worked with me -- when I identified as a musician.

I do again, now: Even if IOC has been gratifying, it's still an amateur choir; the Symphony Chorus, on the other hand, is objectively the big leagues. And Daniel praised the night's Debussy -- not just the staging, or the wonderfully French texture MTT conjured by waggling his fingers mysteriously at his orchestra; but the chorus: our tone, our vowels, our sound.

You realize I've wanted to do exactly this, without knowing it, for years? This is what everyone has told me I couldn't do, wasn't possible: To have a fulfilling, demanding job in a fully other field, for which I am handsomely paid, and to do music professionally. (Professionally!) It's the perfect balance: Since music isn't my day job, I'm not grumbling at having to memorize the last few pages of Debussy or at its unfamiliar French phonemes. Nor have I lost the wide-eyed infatuation, the sheer joy of lifting notes off paper and throwing them into a hall -- any hall, even the rehearsal room Zellerbach C. I used to fear the magic would crumble, as it clearly had for my stand partner in that sophomore-year Shostakovich, as it seems to have for some of the older members of the Symphony Chorus. But it hasn't for me. And not for the company I keep: IOC, amateurs in the literal sense; Alana, fellow alto since 1989; Elaine, who urged me to audition for the Symphony Chorus, who adores every performance, and who posts lines from choir songs on Facebook daily; Nick, with whom (and some red wine) I sang the middle lines of Rachmaninoff's vespers on a balcony under the Golden Gate Bridge the summer of 2008, who then convinced me to join his choir; Ragnar, who is clearly in it for the love; Daniel, undiminished after nine years.

I kind of can't believe I've done this, that this balance is working. I've struck the golden ratio here in California. I'm so gratified.

all this Šnori heikkinen, January 2012

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