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Karen Allendoerfer

Shadow Pictures

July 31, 2008 at 11:42 AM

Practicing from 10:30 to 11:30 p.m. is not the greatest time of day. But it's quiet, a little surreal.

I'm still doing vibrato exercises with the scroll against the wall. Long notes in a scale until my wrist gets tight or 3 minutes passes, whichever comes first. Sometimes I look at the pictures on the wall of the rec room while I'm standing there with the scroll against the wall, the velvet blanket from my case wedged between them for protection.

We have 5 collages on this wall that have been made by our former au pairs, all 19-20-year-old young women from Germany. They stay one year, usually between Gymnasium (high school) and university. The first one started the tradition and gave us a collage as a going-away gift. They've gotten bigger and more elaborate over the years. One scalloped the edges of every picture she cut out with special scissors. Another labeled hers "My Year in Boston," 2005-2006, with star-spangled, red-white-and-blue lettering. From the first of the 5 collages to the last, I can watch my kids grow up, my son from babyhood, my daughter from when she was younger than my son is now.

My farmer's market performance with my daughter got rained out, rescheduled until late-August. There were massive thunderstorms all day that day. The weather has been kind of freaky all summer. While it may not mean anything, I imagine signs of climate change anyway. Is Boston becoming more tropical? Will our future au pairs make different collages--fewer sunny pictures of kids at the pool, fewer pictures of painted snowmen? My violin teacher is having a terrible time with chiggers--small biting mites--in her car and in her apartment. When they bite, she has a bad reaction to them of swelling and redness that affects her playing. She is now resorting to throwing away a bunch of beloved possessions and clothes to get rid of them. I didn't know this area of the country had a problem with chiggers. I'm not even sure I've ever seen a chigger. My teacher said they've come up to more northern climates in the past 10 years.

This has been a difficult week all around. A friend passed away last month, but I only found out about it last week. She was only 44 and had two young kids. We had phoned and emailed last fall and talked about getting together and I never followed up. I got distracted by various family issues, work, and the rest of life. I hadn't even known she was sick. Another acquaintence's husband also passed away two days ago. He was diabetic and had suffered several strokes, but he wasn't that old either. And he was a beautiful poet. He won a poetry award that now he won't be able to receive.

With the vibrato, I was in a bit of a hurry. I put the scroll against a blank wall instead of near the collages, and I saw a shadow picture of my left hand on the wall. It looked kind of like a vibrating playboy bunny, with a big ear sticking up and another one out to the side. I put my fingers down closer to the fingerboard, in a more arched shape. Some of the tension goes away. The vibrato is better. The 3 minutes are more than up.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 31, 2008 at 1:59 PM
Wow, so many insightful things to comment on here. Some quite somber, so I'll stick with the whimsical.

>It looked kind of like a vibrating playboy bunny, with a big ear sticking up and another one out to the side.

I LOVED this image, and this ending. : ) Things like this kind of put life in perspective.

From Yixi Zhang
Posted on August 1, 2008 at 9:02 PM
Karen, this is such a beautifully rich piece that you wrote and I don’t know where to start. For one thing, vibrato is more therapeutic than one might think it would. It gives me a good reason to practise it more these days.

The sudden passing away friends is really a tough one too. It always makes me feel, um, it’s just wrong.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on August 2, 2008 at 11:24 AM
Vibrato really comes and goes, for me. I had a breakthrough the day after I wrote this blog, but now I'm back to the same old same old.

Terez, thanks for your comments on the ending. I love how you are able to structure your blogs with a writers' touch, just building to the right pitch. (The one about the piano concert comes to mind). I tend to just write whatever comes into my head and want to try experimenting with more structure like that.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on August 2, 2008 at 11:02 PM
Ah, editing, the writer's best friend. : ) I'd be embarrassed to admit just how long it takes me to tweak my blogs. Guess I work with words the way others here work with notes and intonation. But I love reading both kind of blogs, actually. Sometimes the 'off the top of the head' ones can be just breathtaking in their significance and freshness. Especially when someone writes after a difficult experience. Particularly death. It's kind of the silver lining in the cloud, that experiencing death makes you experience life so freshly, and write about things with such piercing clarity and wisdom.

I'm rambling, and it's not even my blog. : ) Anyway, I love reading your blogs!

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