Monthly Archives: April 2014

Me as Brünnhilde in Götterdämmerung - one of my favorite Roles

Since I was 18

Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you’d never complete your life, would you? You’d never wholly know you.
Marilyn Monroe

Since I was 18, I have been working to be a singer, working to be a better singer, working to learn repertoire, working to get ready for auditions, working to learn the roles I was hired to sing, working to learn the roles I would like to sing, trying to figure out how to get up to the next level of house and engagement, thinking of strategies, thinking of plans, thinking of timetables, thinking of how to get where I thought I wanted to go career-wise, thinking about how and what I would need and want to do when the call came. The dream to be on stage was a passion, an obsession. It was all I have ever wanted to do.

Now after 40 years, all that has stopped, suddenly, with a bang. No, not with a bang. Softly, quietly, unheard by the world. The judgment has come down. Somehow I have crossed over the line that says, “you are too old.” It’s my choice to accept that judgment or not, but there it is. The thing is, I also apparently have nerve damage in my face and neck that effects my ability to sing. All of this combined have come as a shock.

The thing is, in my head, I still feel like there has to be more time, that I am still learning, that there still has to be time to get this right, time to make up for all the mistakes, time to really show people what I can do. And now suddenly there is no time. I have hit the wall without seeing it coming or at least without wanting to see it come. Believing that my will and my desire were enough to break through any barrier that might come up, except perhaps the barriers in my own head that made me do all those stupid things over the years that held me back or stopped me in my tracks and kept me from being all that I knew was inside me.

It is a special pain, that pain that you feel when you look back on your life and you know that you could have done more, could have done better but that you didn’t for some ridiculous reason. A reason that at the time seemed unbelievably important, like there was no other choice. But you always have a choice and I have made mine in the past. Now I have to make another one. Let go. Or not.

I’m not sure I am ready for this but maybe you never are. It might have been different if I felt like I had made this decision for myself. Or maybe not. I never really thought about what I would do, what my life would be “after”. I was always working to keep working. My mother once asked me – at a time when I was especially struggling to find work – “What will you do if this doesn’t work out?” and I answered – ever the arrogant know-it-all that I am – “Work at McDonalds or something. What would it matter?” I don’t think that flipping burgers is what I will do. Hard to know at this point. At the moment I am just dealing with what is there.

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Our Firewood from 2014 with older wood behind

Making a Fire

People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results.
Albert Einstein

When we bought our house, Wolfgang’s cousin Amin, a carpenter, suggested that we buy a wood burning stove to help with the heating. Our heating system uses a gas heater to heat the water that goes through the system and heats the radiators. The idea was that heating the water with a wood burner would reduce our heating costs. We ordered an Italian stove with ceramic plates over the water pockets through which the water flows and Wolfgang said he would like to chop wood every year. So far so good.

The first problem came up when we found out that the chimney that is in the house couldn’t be used because at some point former renters punched out the walls and put an iron beam right through the chimney. It made it so narrow that even putting a stainless steel chimney inside it would not be accepted by the inspector. So even though we already have one chimney on the side of the house, we had to put up another stainless steel chimney on another side.

We hired someone from the internet to connect the word burner to the heater system. We were in the middle of renovating the house and were pretty much running around. The heater guy would show up and the first thing he would do is drink a coffee and smoke 3 or 4 cigarettes on the balcony and chat with Wolfgang. At least a couple of times, I would come out and say with lots of agitation, “Don’t we want to get started?” This guy told us he was about to buy a million Euro house and yada yada ya. He was supposed to be the head of a big service but he drove a van without a name or emblem off of it. This guy made me nuts.

In the end, I had to get my Italian speaking student to translate the instructions for the heater – which came only in Italian, really thinking internationally there guys! – and the heater guy stared at the instructions for what seemed like hours. Eventually the thing was in but then there was this piece that needed to be changed to make it better and then that piece. The cost of it all was half again as much has he told it would be in the beginning. We continued to have problems with the system and were trying to get him to come and fix it and then his wife called and said he had a stroke and would be out of commission for a while.

We still have problems with the system. Apparently the gas heater was put in wrong, or at least that is what the 5(!!!) different heater companies have told us that have come to look at the system to get it right. They have all said that they would think about how to fix it and send an estimate. Only one company actually sent an estimate. The rest seem to have just given up on ever getting it right. We have decided to kind of make do until we need to replace the gas heater. It is already ten years old.

That being said, the focus of our lives from January to April has become getting the wood “in”, that means out of the forest. We order about 10 cubic meters of wood every year and it has to be out before the wild animals start to give birth in the spring. The Forester has the trees chopped down for the people who order them and then the purchasers have to cut them into smaller pieces and transport them from wherever they are in the woods to their house. In the beginning we didn’t have an all-road vehicle but the car with a trailer worked pretty well. Then one year the wood was on a very steep slope far away from a drivable path. Wolfgang bought a large bag and carried over a ton of wood down the hill and over the brook on his back. Then as the time was getting short, he asked me to help. I “helped” one day and I said, “This is crap! We are buying a Quad if we have to rob a bank to do it!” The Quad makes the work significantly easier but Wolfgang got a name in the village after that year of “the Sufferer”.

We also have a reputation for having the most wood in the village because we heat the water all year with wood and have to have up to two years of wood drying and we store it all in our yard. Others tend to store it in the fields around. It has all paid off though. Our heating bill is less than half of our neighbors. And wood heat is somehow “warmer” than gas. At least it seems so.

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