The microphone shook so hard in my right hand that I had to grab it with my left hand to try to steady it. I felt all the usual nervous symptoms–nausea, heart palpitations, and my face was a lovely hue of flaming red. I closed my eyes so I wouldn’t see the faces in the audience and start to cry while I tried to sing “Amazing Grace,” hitting a few notes wrong and a few notes right.
And yet, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do at my mother’s wake. Exactly what I had planned and rehearsed for over a month in the shower and alone in my car on the way to work. (And it was a good thing I had practiced! I never would have made it through if I hadn’t worked the words into a groove in my neurons.)
This summer I planned for two moments of public speaking–one joyful and one sorrowful. On May 24th, I gave the commencement speech for the college where I work. On July 22nd, I spoke and sang at my mother’s service. For each of these, I prepared months in advance and labored to get it just right. From these two moments, I learned two opposing truths:
- Any sort of art–speaking, writing, drawing– really is about the journey and not the destination.
- I am not driven to have a journey without a destination and someone to share it with.
I also learned that it works best for me to produce and practice much of my work behind closed doors. For the commencement speech, I only told my plan to the one friend who coached me. For my mother’s service, I told no one but Mom. It’s almost like I allowed the art to grow under the soil as if it were a germinating seed.
I’m thinking about this as I work on my next writing projects. It’s a challenge to get the help I need with my craft without telling people what I’m doing. I’ll let you know what I figure out after that germinates a bit, too.
Meanwhile, here are a few photos. This weekend I found two labyrinths while looking for ‘hope’ in a creativity assignment. The first I found when I looked out my mother-in-law’s hospital window. Although she is doing better, Vivian has been admitted to Good Samaritan with sepsis and we have all been very worried. When I saw the labyrinth outside, I wandered downstairs to walk it and my son called from college. I talked to the young man I miss with an ache and turned the corners of the lines alone in the gorgeous garden. Afterward, I noticed the fuschia in my mother’s favorite swing-time colors.
From her hospital room window…
From the ground…
The next day, I went to Seattle for Base2Space, the cancer research fundraiser that had my family climbing the stairs of the Space Needle. We arrived far too early and found the playground at in the Seattle Center to help us pass the time. Here was another larger labyrinth that I walked with my elementary school son–or rather I walked and he ran and crossed and then joined me and then ran again. (Only as I write this do I realize now that I walked the two labyrinths with each of my sons in different ways.) At the doors of the Experience Music Project, I walked the meditation in complete chaos with children playing and the sounds of the musical playground ringing all around me. It was the opposite of the hospital garden and also exactly what I needed.
From the ground…
Here it is again from the stairs as we climbed up the needle.
I wish you all the grace and peace of a labyrinth found in the quiet or the chaos–