Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Remembering Nancy Walker

It was 65 years ago, we had finished our first year in kindergarten and were starting our new school year in the 1st grade, it was 1944, and we were 6. I think about her at least once a year, usually in those momentary thresholds between being asleep and awake, those times when it’s difficult to discriminate between thought and dream.

Nancy Walker and I were not particularly good friends nor were we adversaries. We were seated together in the classroom and for two years shared one of those two child tables with a small shelf under the surface where we could store papers, artwork, pencils, crayons and other small things.

She was taller than the other girls, blond and always had what I remember as a shy quiet smile. She was smart, talented, uncomplicated and in retrospect seemed to be totally trusting. Life was easy for her. Her work was ahead of mine in every respect, spelling, writing, art, arithmetic, she was better at everything, even music; sometimes she would help me with my work.

I think this may have been the first time in my life I had experienced envy, I wished I could have her same ease of dealing with the simple complex of 1st grade encounters; for me everything was hard. And I especially envied the fact that she showed, and I’m sure felt, no sense of superiority; she was just good! I was aware I couldn’t be as good, as nice and as friendly as her and that troubled me.

We stayed seated together well into the 2nd grade. Then something happened, I think I had done something, I can’t remember what, and we were separated. Nancy never wanted to talk to me anymore. I was sad but tried to laugh about it every time I saw her. For the next years, through elementary, junior high school, and high school she remained distant. I will never remember what I did but I wish I hadn’t done it.

I dreamed about Nancy last night. It was a good dream; she was old but still had that shy quiet smile. I tried to explain to her that I was sorry for whatever I had done to cause her to distance herself. She seemed moved and touched my hand and said she couldn’t remember what I had done either but she forgave me. I think she was a wonderful person I wish we could have been good friends.

I resisted waking up for as long as I could this morning.

After searches I have sadly discovered many of my class, the 1938 vintage, have already deceased.

I hope you are well Nancy.

Okayama, Japan, April 19, 2009

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Hormones and Cherry Blossoms

The March masterclass tour is finished, the remarkably high level of the students I encountered at all the venues, Lahti Finland, Bolzano Italy, Amsterdam, Detmold Germany, and Zurich were inspirational and I’m going home fresh and invigorated. Now in Lausanne, Switzerland I happily start my countdown for a new school year at the Musashino Academy of Music in Tokyo and the Tokyo spring, a stimulating pink world of hormones and cherry blossoms.

Spring is a formidable time everywhere in the world and its effect on us is perhaps more powerful than most of us realize. We are, whether we like to admit it or not, just one of many beasts on this planet and spring is the time that most species move to continue their life cycles of our species too; it’s the rites of spring for the birds, bees, flowers and trees and even with the politics, economics, technologies and intellectual pursuits; we are still only just another of the many animals on this planet and we are certainly profoundly effected by springs power.

I will get home just in time for a hanami, (viewing of the cherry blossoms). I’ll go with friends and enjoy the sakura (cherry blossoms), enjoy watching the people and I will be aware that hanami is a much larger thing than just a beautiful Japanese tradition. The flowers will be beautiful and the Japanese girls will be beautiful, but it’s also part of the nature of spring, it’s part of the rites of spring. Japan is an amazing place to enjoy this human condition. We are lucky to be able to view the spring both from the standpoint of our basic viscerality and from our more sophisticated human culture.

Wherever you are, however you celebrate your hanami, your rites of spring, I hope you enjoy it; it’s a good life.

Lausanne, Switzerland, April 5, 2009