Sunday, May 3, 2009

torres del paine

it's been ages since i've written here, mostly because life has been breezing along, delighting me at every turn.

i recently returned from a trip to patagonia with my dear friend matt gee, and can honestly say that i've never seen anything that has inspired me so much in the quiets of my soul. torres del paine national park is situated in the middle of nowhere. matt and i took a flight to the southern-most airport, punta arenas, and then a bus four hours north to puerto natales, and then another hour and a half bus ride to the park itself.

it is unexpectedly extremely flat with you arrive in very south, which makes it even more shocking when you finally crest a rise and the torres (towers) are there, breaking the horizon.

we had planned to do the famous "W", named so for the shape the path takes when you look at a bird's eye view. it was a four or five day hike, and matt and i had come equipped to really do it. the following is a brief overview of what we were privileged to see while we were there.

it was ultimately one of those experiences on which you reflect often and then forever after use as a marker of personal change. at some point every day i had a feeling of profound peace and a deep sense of my true self and my place in the world.

you should visit.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

where does the time go?

well! since i last posted (ages and ages ago) many big things have happened, which i will now list.

i turned 25 - HUGE birthday
i got tenure
i went on tour with my quintet to the south of chile (pictures below)
my uncle and best friend both came to visit (pictures below)
i played a contemporary music concert at one of the universities
OBAMA won the presidency, and virginia went blue for the first time in 44 years (go VA)
i fell in love with buenos aires (pictures below)
i bought my first painting (in BA)
my brother won the short course swimming national championship in the 100free (!)
i've partially learned to surf

so, lots of GREAT things going here. something that is not so great is that it is now technically the "holiday season" and yet it's getting warmer every day. i've been trying to get myself in the holiday spirit but things don't really seem to be working. how can people be putting up xmas trees and also wearing tank-tops? didn't THE church think of this when they spread Catholocism to the ends of the earth? didn't they think it would confuse everyone if jesus was resurrected in Spring, in April, and yet here, it is Autumn? this backwards season/holiday temperature issue has really been getting to me.

i tried to make xmas cookies the other night with a friend, and we listened to a bunch of xmas music, but none of it worked. not even the cookies - they came out as scones. disaster. so i'm hoping that at least when we're bbqing for xmas, i can compare the feeling to that of 4th of july. i'm going to my "family's" house in Las Condes for Christmas Eve since i'm not able to go home to the States. i've decided to make a Red Velvet Cake to take since they've definitely never had it and i associate it strongly with Christmas. it's the right colors, after all.

also, tonight and tomorrow are the last nights of work for me before the holiday week off. we're doing the "american" concert, and we're playing Copland Appalaichan Spring, Barber Violin Concerto (incredible oboe solo in the beginning of the second movement), Ives Unanswered Question and Bernstein West Side Story. a great program but i confess it makes me a bit homesick. especially since i'm from the appalaicha area and copland's open sonorities are so quintessentially american. also i don't know if i could love a concerto more than i love the barber. we have a great soloist as well, mark kaplan, who teaches at IU and is one of those soloists who really lets the music speak. we're lucky. it's all gorgeous.

here are some pictures of the south:

and also of my trip with my uncle to Hacienda Los Ligures:

buenos aires:

some pics of me and katie in pichilemu:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Decalogue of the Artist

Decalogue of the Artist

I. You shall love beauty, which is the shadow of God over the Universe.

II. There is no godless art. Although you love not the Creator, you shall bear witness to Him creating His likeness.

III. You shall create beauty not to excite the senses but to give sustenance to the soul.

IV. You shall never use beauty as a pretext for luxury and vanity but as a spiritual devotion.

V. You shall not seek beauty at carnival or fair or offer your work there, for beauty is virginal
and is not to be found at carnival or fair.

VI. Beauty shall rise from your heart in song and you shall be the first to be purified.

VII. The beauty you create shall be known as compassion and shall console the hearts of men.

VIII. You shall bring forth your work as a mother brings forth her child: out of the blood of your heart.

IX. Beauty shall not be an opiate that puts you to sleep but a strong wine that fires you to action, for if you fail to be a true man or a true woman, you will fail to be an artist.

X. Each act of creation shall leave you humble, for it is never as great as your dream and always
inferior to that most marvelous dream of God which is Nature.

- Gabriela Mistral

Translated by Doris Dana

Thursday, July 17, 2008

San Pedro Pictures

Finally, pictures from San Pedro de Atacama

Shostakovich 5 and the Maestro

I survived. At least so far. The Maestro is the one who decides who stays and who goes and I've been trying to play and do my best so I get to stay. I love it here.

The Shostakovich went well, though it was weird to be on stage again after playing for two months in the pit. I felt rather exposed with the audience actually paying all their attention to the music instead of dancers and singers sharing the responsibility. But it was thrilling, as Shostakovich tends to be. His music has always been a personal favorite of mine, with his Eleventh Symphony changing my life forever back in 1998.

So it went well, I got to stand, but I was nervous! But after the Shostakovich, we began rehearsals for Bluebeard's Castle (Bartok) and Suor Angelica (Puccini) and I've been feeling confident ever since. (I had some great reeds.)

We just had our dress rehearsal of the operas and begin our run of shows tomorrow. I am entranced by the Bartok. It's incredibly spooky music, which of course perfectly follows the story: Judith marries Bluebeard, find these seven doors, wants to open them to have more light in the castle. Finds (not in perfect order) a torture room, an armory, a room full of riches, a garden with bloody roses, a view onto his vast kingdom, a lake of tears... and the seventh door contains the bodies of his previous wives, all murdered. She ultimately gets done in as well. Great plot, great music.

Then we move on to Suor Angelica: noble woman in convent because she had a kid out of wedlock, finds out her sister's is getting married and therefore must renounce her inheritance. She only wants to see her son, but finds out that her son died. She poisons herself thinking her son is calling for her, but realizes her mistake and begs for forgiveness. In the end, she sees the Virgin and her son and dies. Happy, I think. But it's pretty music, very Puccini. And we have Veronia Villareal, who is a very famous soprano (and also Chilean!) singing the lead role. Suor Angelica is an interesting opera because not only is it one of only three one-acts that Puccini wrote, but the cast is entirely women until the VERY end when a male chorus sings off-stage. Has a great couple of arias and really fun oboe/flute duets which Prema and I are playing with relish.

I love OPERA!

Trip continued

On the way to Valparaiso, we stopped in different villages, my favorites being Tunquen and Quintay. Somehow, these villages had so far escaped development, though I fear they are next in line. I want someone with a lot of money to buy the land and preserve it as a national park. Tunquen was a teensy dot on the map, and we passed through via dirt roads and through a river. On the OTHER side of the river was the sign that said “Don’t cross unless you’re in a truck.” Too bad they couldn’t get that sign for both directions. However, lucky for us, because it was breathtaking. Just some farms and houses scattered here and there, with giant cliffs (VERY steep) behind and the sea in front. Beautiful.

Quintay was similar, with the steepest road I’ve ever traveled leading into the town. We were a bit concerned our little rental car would make it. I can imagine that the people in the town like it that way – cuts down on the traffic. However, of course as you’re driving down the road, it feels as though you’ll drive straight into the sea, and at sunset, you want to camp out and forever live your life gazing upon the glittering water and the wet rocks rising tall from the sea. It was one of those moments I’d like to be able to have even when I grow old and my memory begins to fail me.

After our night/next day in Valpo (Neruda’s house, lots of walking) we headed north for La Serena, and stopped on they way to spend the night in Los Vilos, a coastal village with a giant beach which must be marvelous during the summer. We stayed in a little cabana without heat (we were cold a lot on this trip) and woke up the next morning to continue on our journey. Upon arriving in La Serena, we found a hostel (with heat!) and ended up walking around a bit and driving to see the now-defunct lighthouse and the beach. La Serena is a couple of miles from the beach, and there is now a strip of hotels, restaurants and a casino along the water. La Serena itself is very quaint and old, with a beautiful Plaza de Armas and cobblestone streets.

My priority upon visiting La Serena was to go to the Reserva Nacional de Penguinos Humboldt, the Humboldt Penguin Nature Reserve. I was so excited that penguins resided outside of Antarctica. There were also supposed to be dolphins, sea lions and during the summer season, whales. So we went. The drive was about two hours – an hour north on the big road, and then an hour heading west, on a dirt road with no signs and the occasional fork, which resulted in us taking the road that looked more worn. We drove through the desert until FINALLY we reached the little town that was a marker – Los Choros, and then into the town where we could hire a boat to take us around Isla Choros. (This isla was really an island.)

As we drove in, we were of course accosted by two men who REALLY wanted to take us to the island, and commenced to follow us around as we looked for some kind of visitors center or a place to pay an entrance fee for the park. As far as we could tell, there wasn’t any, so we stopped at a restaurant to get a drink. While there, I struck up conversation with an older Chilean couple who had, funnily enough, been accosted by the same two guys. We decided it’d be cheaper if we shared the ride. We found the two men close by (not surprisingly) and so put on all of our warmest gear, life jackets, and headed out to sea.

It was chilly, but also refreshing, and as we made our way across the water, a pod of dolphins joined our boat. At first just two parents and a baby, but soon there were about 15 dolphins and one sea lion all swimming next to the boat, surfacing at the same time, disappearing for a while and then reappearing to the delight of all. The followed us all the way to the island where the dolphins dropped us off, and we headed to the sea lion colony. Sea lions are great creatures – so sweet-faced and awkward on land, but smooth and swift in the water. There were babies, mothers, the head of the family, and they were all perched on every possible surface you could imagine – ledges, the flat of rocks, huge angles – and somehow not one fell off.

There were also three different types of cormorants, which dove spectacularly for fish and then found their way to a rock to dry their wings. The penguins were next.

The Humboldt penguins are very shy little penguins who lay their eggs on top of the island to avoid have the sea lions eat them. Therefore, each day they cautiously waddle down the rocky cliff to fish. We saw some walking along and in turn, they played hide and seek with us, darting under rocks, waiting a few moments, then trying to run to the next rock without being seen. Adorable, and absolutely worth the trip.

We returned to La Serena that night absolutely satisfied, and set off the next morning for Elqui Valley. Now, Elqui Valley is where they make Pisco, the national alcohol of Chile, so one would expect a climate similar to California. Except that we happened to go on one of the three or so days a year that it happens to rain. And it rained. A lot. So we didn’t get to see the giant vistas or go on any hikes, but we did drive through all the small towns and see the pisco vineyards spreading out like a golden autumn blanket below. It was all quite picturesque. And we found some beautiful shops with pretty glass and bought some pisco. However, I think to fully appreciate Elqui Valley I’ll need to return on a sunny day.

The next day was sunny, and we drove back to Santiago in order to return the car in time to have dinner at the house of the Risopatron – Hoffman family. The grandparents of this family, Luz Maria and Rudy, know a couple from my hometown of Lexington – the men had been at MIT together – and their grand-daughter, Antonia was coming to visit Lexington for about three months or so beginning on 22 July. Because of the connection, I had connected with the family and they so generously had us to dinner. Luz Maria and Rudy’s daughter, Veronica (mother of Antonia) hosted, and we had an absolutely hilarious time. Juan Pablo, Veronica’s husband, makes the best pisco sours I’d had in Chile, and everyone was laughing and really enjoying themselves. It made me wish for my parents that they lived in Lexington, or that my parents would move to Santiago so as to have great friends around. This family is the kind of family that’s easy to sink into and relax – they are incredibly accepting, generous and funny and make you feel as though you are part of the family. Their family dynamic is just so incredibly energetic and joyful – you leave feeling light and exhilarated. Very special indeed.

The next day we took a trip up the mountains to see snow. There are 48 curves to get up to the ski resort areas, so as soon as there was snow to throw for a snowball, we returned, and spent the afternoon recovering from our weak stomachs.

We recovered just in time to celebrate an early birthday at the famous restaurant Astrid y Gastón. Reputed to be one of the best, if not THE best restaurant in Santiago, we had an incredible dinner beginning at 9, ordered by 9:45, food started arriving around 10 or so. We were there for about three hours, enjoying the different courses, the presentation and the uniqueness of the cuisine. This is the sort of restaurant where you have to pick your dessert at the beginning because they make each one from scratch and they need time for preparation. It was worth everything. And I received a book of poems and an autographed Tom Rush CD from William, whom I still can’t believe thought enough ahead to send Mom and Dad my birthday present so they could bring it to me. Great brother!

The next day, I did work while Mom and Dad explored on their own, and then we went to see Get Smart, though here it is called Super Agente 86. It was great. The next day was leisurely, buying some gifts in Bellavista and then finally saying goodbye, which was quite hard. It had been great to have my parents here and for them to see all the new things in my life. I was starting to feel kind of like a grown-up, which made it hard to have them leave. I so enjoy being a kid and it’s so easy to fall into that when parents are visiting. However, I had great friends whom I hadn’t seen for several weeks, and Shostakovich 5 on Tuesday, with the Maestro coming Thursday, so I charged right back into life.

Oh, and I got a new friend named Little Joe. Here he is:

Recent Events and Neruda

So I have been out of blog commission for some time, mostly because I’d had a rolling series of busy weeks. In review, since the last time I wrote:

I had been in San Pedro de Atacama, blissfully soaking up the sunshine and clean air and the fresh start I recaptured while there.

Then I got sick. Thankfully, I was off of work for the next three weeks, so I spent the week making soup and watching movies and generally feeling a little bit sorry for myself. (Note: Regression whilst sick is shockingly easy. I believe I regained my San Pedro confidence upon return to normal health.)

Then Mom and Dad came, which was great. We spent the first five days or so puttering around Santiago, and checking things out slowly, which was nice. We saw the Pre-Columbian museum (lots of cool art and even some mummies and also some Maoi –the big Easter Island statues), climbed San Cristobal and Cerro Santa Lucia and had a tour with the Risopatróns of the Las Condes neighborhood. Then came the pivotal moment of the trip. We visited Pablo Neruda’s house, where I will digress.

Now, I’ve always APPRECIATED Neruda and fallen into his web of imagery and intimacy – I’ve seen Il Postino, read the Captain’s Verses, but I had no idea that he was artist in every sense of the word.

Neruda had three houses which he built piece by piece over the years (Lexington folk, it reminded me a bit of Kitty and Ron’s house that was years in the making). His house in Santiago is called La Chascona, which loosely translated means “crazy-haired one.” Think bad bed head. However, he used it as an affectionate term for his wife Matilde who apparently had crazy hair. Sweet.

La Chascona is tucked away in Bellavista and I’d passed it several times without ever realizing what it was. The entrance is just a door in a white wall. You enter into the gift-shop area and then head upstairs for the start of the tour. All of a sudden, you are in the middle of a bizarre “yard” surrounded by different house parts, all built onto a steep hill. Neruda designed all three of his houses to look like ships. The doors are all narrow, the halls narrow with low ceilings, and every space is intimate. Even if it has an open feeling, such as the living room in this house, the room itself is a circle so it’s all connected and revolves around itself and an incredible fireplace. (All three have fantastic fireplaces. And bars.)

Neruda was a collector and each room in the house has collections – of colored glasses, flatware, silverware, pictures of watermelons, seashells, etc. However, my favorite part about La Chascona was the design concept itself. You can have other people “in the house” and never see them all day long. And it’s not because it’s a massive house, but because each room is its own separate section, completely disconnected. One has to walk outside to get to the living/bedroom section, library, kitchen/guesthouse, etc. It’s a brilliant plan to be able to work at home and still feel as though you could be anywhere. We were all quite inspired and impressed by Neruda’s ingenuity in this design. Not to mention he has a beautiful view of Santiago and the mountains on clear days… (Ah, the tragedy of smog.)

Then we got out of town. And on the recommendation of our Neruda guide Gonzalo, rented our car and headed to Isla Negra, the second home of Neruda. Despite its name, Isla Negra is not an island, but a very quiet beach town about an hour and a half south of Valparaiso on the rocky Chilean coast. The wind blows quickly off the water and the waves relentlessly pound the rocks. Neruda was clever to buy some of the only coastal property in Isla Negra that also had a bit of sand, so one could swim if one dared to.

Neruda’s house in Isla Negra is filled with everything maritime – ship masts, paintings of ships, ships in bottles, navigational maps, TONS of seashells, a pipe collection, and more colored glasses. It is his burial place as well of that of his third wife, Matilde. To me, this house had much more solitude, with the sea in front and large evergreens behind. It is open and free, but also his nooks and crannies provide a safe haven and intimacy. The house in Isla Negra is an ode of love to the ocean. He even turned his bed at an angle so as to see the sea from as many points as possible.

We then moved towards Valparaiso to see his third and final house. His house in Valparaiso sits on one of the twenty or more hills (cerros) that rise above “el plan,” the flat section of town that runs into the ocean and port. These hills are literally covered with houses of every imaginable color, shape and size. At night, their lights outline the curves of the cerros and gaze down upon the flat streets and the boats docked, rocking in the waves. I felt as I had in Venice, where I never knew where I was going to end up, or what awaited me around the corner. Magical.

Neruda’s house, La Sebastiana, also known as La Casa en el Aire, (The House in the Air), sits quite near the very top of one of these hills. Not only is its location impressive, but also the house, unlike the spread of his other two, is stacked four floors one on top of the other. However, though it’s not spread out, it creates the same effect, as one has to go to a different floor for the living room, dining/kitchen area, bedroom, and finally, his library. (It seems as though I’m not the only one to have the idea to design a house like a lighthouse, building a different room at each turn of the stairs…). From the study, one can see all of Valparaiso, and also a bit around the bend to Viña del Mar. It’s reported that Neruda also watched the New Year’s fireworks from his house in Valparaiso. It’s easy to see why.

We fell in love...