Of Toilets and Simple Gifts

16 Aug

I spent the last week on vacation in the Berkshires, probably my second most favorite place in the U.S., after San Juan Island, Washington.  Peter and I rented a house with another couple, Jen and Andrew, and the week was relaxing and restorative and totally fun.

Except for the singing part.

Jen and Andrew know about my foray into singing, so in a show of love and support, they brought along their Rise Up Singing songbook and Andrew’s guitar, and encouraged me to sing with them.  They sang Bonnie Raitt and Arlo Guthrie and the Eagles, and, several times, Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluyah” and “Simple Gifts” and “L’chi Lach,” by Debbie Friedman  (three of the songs I am working on).

But for me, after only two lessons, singing so publicly, and in a forum in which I was supposed to be heard, felt awfully like sitting on the toilet in the middle of the living room.  The opposite of relaxing and restorative.

After only two lessons, I have all of the same singing limitations (see “Wobbling Along“) I’ve always had.  So trying to sing with other people who are not singing a song in the key in which I have learned it, and with a guitar, and without a piano, equals painful and awkward.

I don’t have the language or experience to be able to say singer-y things like, “Oh, can we do that in the key of G?” because I don’t know what the key of G is or whether that is actually the key that I might sing a song in.  Maybe, someday, I’ll be there.  But not after two lessons.

My singing voice – which seems like it should be a natural part of me – is more like a rusty clarinet that has been hidden away in the attic.  I have discovered it, and I am experimenting with it, blowing through the mouthpiece and pressing the keys, but I have no real idea how to play it.

So although I am sad that the vacation is over, it feels good to be home, alone with the cat and the dog and my little tinny tape recorder.  I have been able to practice freely, oohing through five-note scales and eight-note scales, and bubble-lipping my way through my three songs.  I am ready and excited for lesson #3, later today.

Sitting around singing with friends?  Maybe next year.


5 Responses to “Of Toilets and Simple Gifts”

  1. Erika August 17, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

    This is great! You are a real inspiration. Happy (belated) birthday.
    Your new (old) fan,

  2. Catherine Barnhart August 18, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    So come on out to San Juan Island and sing with us…piano accompaniment provided. You will sound just fine if you sing with us!! And thank you, Peter, for letting us know about this blog. It’s the BEST.

    • Gail Rispoli August 19, 2011 at 9:20 am #

      Hi Cathleen, this is Gail, Peter’s secretary. Love your blog. I am now a “couple” of years older but I can tell I will relate to your blog. Your writing is fantastic, it draws you right in, maybe….a book after your blogging experience! Look forward to your updates, Enjoy

  3. Jane September 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm #


    Frieda just shared your blog with me and I love it. I find it wonderful that fifty year olds like us are inspired to live daringly and have adventures. I told Frieda that I love being fifty, warts and all. This particular blog makes me laugh because l wrote a short blog about singing with friends too, from a different angle! So funny and so good to be alive, no?

    • Cathleen Barnhart September 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

      I am grateful every day for having the time and space to try to live more daringly, and for being able to blog about it. Thanks for reading!

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