Renovations: digging the mermaid

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January 2009 – learning to love foundation

Renovations: Digging the MermaidThe man I am falling in love with is a slow moving creature. It is three a.m. and we are in my kitchen dancing to some music, a little drunk and definitely wanting to fuck. Or at least I am. He is hard…and despite this obvious indication that we should be having sex, he says he is not ready. In my muddled state I feel my heart drop gently into my belly. Disappointment. But somehow he manages to tell me this without hurting my feelings or making me question his desire for me…or his virility.

I wake up the next morning and marvel at all of this. I am almost fifty and for the first time in my life I believe I am moving at a pace that is giving me much-needed time to think — and feel — my way towards making a choice about sexual engagement. This man is becoming dear to me in mysterious ways that are related to the word “no.” And he is teaching me – through his slowness – about the time it takes to build foundation.

I have always valued my ability to be fully present in the moment of lust, and to let that lead me to decision. In the immediacy of the experience I recognize and reclaim myself. Sexual impulse brings me to life. I can organize a military campaign of activity around shared passion. And I can create all the fiction necessary to pitch ‘the idea of love’ to my inner editor. But in the end neither body nor head feels intact and the drama is exhausting. How nice it is to have the option to back out before chemicals and morality do their wicked dance of entrapment.



I am a singer and what I do with the inside of my body – in order to make sound – is invisible and is not fully processed by my motor-sensory cortex. This makes it hard to feel and difficult to boss around. It is under the purview of my autonomic nervous system and unless something is wrong, this branch of the nervous system does its work without letting me in on it. So within this body I need image and emotion to get to the heart of expressing and communicating my humanity.
I teach voice, too, and do so in my home. The boundaries between the personal and professional blur as I draw on my life experience as a mother, and use the art on the walls of my living-room studio to illustrate ideas and feelings. I love passing on the cathartic and technical expertise that I have accumulated over thirty years of singing in public and while teaching at my piano. My students dream about houses as they strip themselves bare, rewiring and re-plumbing their insides in order to free their voices and build technique.
To sing from the heart, foundation is necessary. The diaphragm needs to give way into the body so that air can come in by itself. This trust within the breath allows for courage. When our base – our pelvic basin – is rigid we armour through the chest. This is a superficial stab at strength and it causes us to force in order to be heard – I call this sound brave. Courage is different. It is open and heart felt. It gives and receives. The chest softens into a sigh and the ribs counter, expanding and protecting through flexible strength.

Ruthlessness and compassion discover how to collaborate as we risk speaking the truth. Within the singing voice this ebb and flow of air, this pulsing of flesh, leads to extraordinary sound that seems to surround the singer rather than being dependent on the striving of an individual set of vocal cords. Vital, vibrant, vigorous. The body fully alive in vibration…”


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