In 2008, just a few pounds away from my 100-pound loss, I fell off my bike and broke my wrist. Broke it but good. Had to have surgery and titanium pins put in. I'd never had surgery before and the combination of anesthesia, heavy-duty pain meds (they gave me the GOOOOOOOD stuff), and, I believe, the trauma to my body, put me in a weird sort of funk.
My poor husband, who is the world's greatest nurse, was terribly alarmed to suddenly find himself saddled with a woman who cried at the drop of a hat. Emotionally manipulative commercial? Waterworks. Cute puppy? Waterworks. Phone rings? Waterworks. I cried for any reason and no reason. Hell, I cried because I was crying and didn't like it.
There was a part of me that knew and accepted that this was a particularly weird part of the healing process, so I reassured my husband between sobs and just tried to get on with things. But on top of the all the crying, I also found myself struck with a deep melancholy accompanied by a very specific desire --- nay, longing --- for a place I'd never really been. One of the movies I watched while convalescing was Miss Potter, the wonderful film about the life of Peter Rabbit author Beatrix Potter. In this film, Potter spends some time in the English Lake Country, which is stunningly beautiful. I was immediately possessed of a deep, melancholy desire to be at a lake. And not a Texas lake --- a northeastern mountain lake, surrounded by woods, cool and beautiful and isolated.
This longing, as I mentioned, was very specific. I wanted not necessarily to live in such a place, but to have it as a haven, a place I could spend my summers (with husband and dogs, of course!); and furthermore, it had to be a cabiny sort of place, where you drove into town for supplies but still magically had internet access, and a good view of the lake.
Needless to say, this type of situation was not immediately available and not really a financial possibility anyway, unless I were to be hired for some sort of opera festival.
Fast forward to Summer 2013, where I am spending four weeks at the Chautauqua Institution, on the shores of Lake Chautauqua, ninety minutes south of Buffalo and mere miles from Lake Erie. It's more of a charming Victorian hamlet than a cabin-in-the-woods environment, but it is beautiful and quite special nonetheless.
As I stroll about the grounds, enjoying all the beautiful Victorian homes --- everything from darling gingerbread cottages to gracious grand hotels --- and the gorgeous, lush, tiny gardens --- that melancholic sense of longing which has never quite deserted me wells to the surface.
I am grateful to have my time here, to be part of this amazing community and to be able to help bring to life a work of great genius and beauty, and yet it's bittersweet. And it surprises me, how strong this feeling is yet.
But I also somehow feel it's not the end of the story, when I leave in a couple of weeks and move on to other beautiful and compelling places. Life has a way of manifesting those ideas which you are strongly attached to, as long as you voice them and open yourself in practical ways to the possibilty of creating them.
It's unlikely that I will ever own a summer cottage on a mountain lake in the northeast, or anywhere else for that matter, but what I can seeing happening, and what I would love, is to become permanently associated with a summer festival such as this one. That's called having your cake and eating it too, and it's eminently possible. Maybe not right now, or even in the next couple of years, but at some point, it could be. I am not done singing yet, not by a long shot, but I do like administration a lot and I'm good at it. I like working with young singers and I'm good at it. I'd love to be running a young artist's program or a well-funded pay-to-sing somewhere.
Somewhere on a lake, in the mountains, with lots of trees.
Until then, I'll continue loving every minute of my Chautuaqua experience.