Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Thoughts on Chautauqua

I feel so very much at home here in Chautauqua. It has nothing to do with a romantic vacation with the love of my life. He is in New Orleans attending a techie conference and I am here with our mutual friend Bill and with Deborah and her husband Neal.

My day today started out with meditation. I confronted our Sikh instructor with a plea for more silence and less of his philosophy (he never shuts up). Upon realizing that this just isn't going to happen, I approached another meditator (you can tell the serious ones because they bring their own benches) and we decided to meet at 7 AM in front of the coffee shop and do our own silent meditation. It will be a lot better.

The rest of the day was filled with music. The head of the music department, Arie Lipsky, coached our quintet this morning. At first I was scared to be performing in front of someone so talented. But his unassuming air and casual approach to making corrections quickly quelled my fears. He sat down next to me so he could see the full score of our Telemann sonata and fulfilled a useful role of turning my pages. I kept waiting for him to notice the notes I was leaving out, but instead he talked to the flute, the violins and the bass. I'm sure it will be my turn tomorrow. The people who have heard our 2-day-old piece think it sounds really good.

After my personal practice time of an hour and a half, I went to a masters piano class. Whew! I am glad I wasn't one of those students. It was really brutal. First of all, they each played a really long piece from memory. Then the head of the piano department told them everything they had done wrong. I wasn't quite sure if some of the non-native English speakers understood all of her comments.

Then Deborah and I played for another hour. I was pretty wiped out by then. We did some nice work, but we were both tired.

I threw together some dinner, thanks to the farmers' market -- quiche, taboulleh, fresh tomatoes, and a fruit salad for dessert. We ate on our second floor veranda, with real wine glasses found on a top shelf in the kitchen.

Deborah, Neal, and I headed off to a student concert after dinner. It was wonderful to hear all that young talent. By intermission I was ready to ride my bike home and write.

So what appeals so much to me in this rather one-dimensional existence here? It's this chance to explore music in a way that has never been possible for me before. I am starting to realize that I really can play pretty well. I even wondered today what it would have been like to have music as a career. I am sure I wouldn't have made as much money, but it is so satisfying.

Aside from music, there is an allure of this place that is really special. We don't lock our door at the B&B -- in fact, we don't even close it! I never lock my bike. Little children play outside in front of their houses without the need of constant adult supervision. Even the dogs seem unconcerned about anything and certainly not interested in running away. The topic of conversation is always the latest lecture or class or concert someone has attended. There are people here from a variety of religions, but it doesn't matter in the least.

I also love my B&B. It is like being at home. We have full access to the kitchen, including the refrigerator, stove, and cooking utensils. I sit here and use their computer all the time. Even though we don't have a bathroom in our room, there are 3 communal bathrooms that are always available. We are about 50 steps from the amphitheater, so we don't even have to go to a concert to hear it. I listened to La Boheme from our veranda. Tonight there is a jazz concert.

People are genuinely friendly. They greet you in the street. They share tables at the coffee shop. They seem to be interested in what you have to say. Maybe it's because people here are not so caught up in making a living, they have more time just to notice what is going on around them.

I'm really going to miss this place. It is like a gem of an experience that I would like to preserve.

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