Lost in Translation

I am actually a little disappointed to be posting this with the title “Lost in Translation” when I realize that “A Foreign Language” would have actually fit it perfectly. But alas, that was the name of my last post and of course hindsight is 20/20.

Oh well. Anyways.

I believe I mentioned at the start of the year that I rented a violin in December and was playing around with that and having a lot of fun with it. Well, it actually worked out that a barn friend of mine had a violin from when she was learning as a kid and she generously gifted it to me, which was pretty amazing. It’s a gorgeous instrument and I am very much in love, and after fixing up the strings and buying a new bow (and learning just how painstakingly difficult it is to apply a new brick of rosin to a brand new bow–it took me two days), it really feels like my own.

Actually learning how to play it though?

That’s been an interesting adventure.

I mean, I’ve learned how to make it sound like something resembling music and not a horrible hybrid between nails-on-chalkboard and dying-animal-sound, which is good, and I’ve learned to play a couple short and simple songs that actually sound like the songs they’re supposed to be, which is great, but wow what an instrument.

What an instrument, truly.

It’s quite interesting, because music is something I’ve always loved from a listening standpoint, but is something I never really felt a part of from a creating standpoint. I mean, I did take a mandatory music class in eighth grade so I did have some exposure to music, but learning three notes on the flute in order to play Hot Cross Buns doesn’t exactly equate to understanding and grasping music. And seeing as how I got a B in that class, I clearly wasn’t any kind of musical prodigy.

So jumping into the violin (which is on its own a much more difficult instrument to learn than most) without any real prior musical ability or knowledge has been a little bit disorienting. I mean, I couldn’t read a lick of sheet music a month or so ago, so trying to figure out how the little sticks and circles on the page are supposed to transform into sounds feels like trying to understand ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Lots of confused faces and question marks, let me tell you.

And what the heck is with this whole “an A note could either be an open A or the fourth finger on the D string or the third finger on the E string or the first finger on the G string” nonsense? Why couldn’t we come up with different letters for each? I am so confused????

But I’m slowly piecing it together and am actually making music. Which is. Wow. It’s really wow.

I mean, I’ve sort of got Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:

Which are two songs that would really only entertain infants (and even then they would want me to be a lot better at violin first) but hey. It’s certainly a start.

And, and! I’ve also got a classical song by Beethoven in my musical repertoire. Yeah that’s right, I learned how to play a snippet of Ode to Joy. I actually only learned it yesterday, so I have a clip from then and a clip from now, which already shows a little bit of improvement (such as actually being able to remember the tune of Ode to Joy).

Warning: this song sounds a little torturous. Sorry not sorry.

Personally, I think it sounds a little more impressive than Twinkle Twinkle. I actually was a little surprised that Ode to Joy was in my learning level. I mean, I guess I never realized it was actually fairly simple in practice? And I guess when you think of Beethoven you don’t really think “beginner”. So it’s kind of cool to me to see that making music isn’t quite as astoundingly, impossibly difficult as I previously thought.

Although, that being said, I’m not finding every song quite so easy to get a grasp on. The song that is my kryptonite? Jingle Bells. Yes. Jingle Bells. I attempted it four times in the following clip and boy oh boy was that fun.

Yeeeah. Not very impressive.

I think perhaps the most fascinating part of this whole experience thus far though has been actually learning the music. I mean, I still don’t really know sheet music, but I learned how to do Auld Lang Syne using tabs and that’s actually a song I’ve memorized. And it’s really interesting to me, because to some degree I’ve got the finger positions numerically memorized (0 3 3 3 1 0 3 0…) but when it comes down to really playing it, I’ve actually got it memorized more by sound than anything else. I know the tune of the song, I know whether the next note will be higher or lower, I’ve learned the finger position associated with the different notes, and so playing Auld Lang Syne feels a little bit like speaking a fluent sentence in a foreign language.

Learning music feels like learning a language.

Because with this song in particular, I no longer have to sit there and think “okay what’s the note that comes next?”, my brain just knows it, and knows how to make it. I’ve got it memorized to the point where it feels intuitive and natural and it’s such an incredible feeling. This is why I wanted to learn an instrument–I wanted the feeling of music being an extension of myself and I wanted to feel the sound pour from my hands the same way the words pour from my mind.

I mean don’t get me wrong, you can hear plenty of mistakes when I’m playing it (I am so impatient and you can totally tell, ahaha), but it just feels so amazing to play and agh I love it.

I have a hell of a long way to go with violin before it’s quite what I hope for it to be, but I’m just so grateful that I get the chance right now to start to integrate something so amazing and meaningful into my life. The fact that I’m learning this new language, that I’m finding a new way to express myself, a new extension of my soul? It’s inspiring and powerful and breathtaking and I love it.

Y’know. When I’m not struggling with Christmas songs.

-Alex

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A few horses, a lot of life lessons

Hooray, it’s August and that means the Your Story project has officially begun! The responses I’ve gotten have been nothing but fantastic, and I am so excited to share them with you! We’re certainly starting off with an inspirational and heart-warming one from Heather over at yourhappyplaceblog. Her blog is always a joy for me to read, full of inspiration and motivation to find happiness in your life. I hope you enjoy reading her story as much as I did :D

(P.S.:It isn’t too late to submit a story–if this inspires you to share your own, let me know! I would love to help you share it with others.)

And as per usual, all comments are welcome and appreciated! I’m sure Heather would love to hear what you think :)

***

A few horses, a lot of life lessons

photo from thelove4happiness.com

“I had an amazing experience last Friday, I got to spend a day with beautiful horses learning about myself, energy, leadership and finding a deeper part of myself.

I am definitely a follower of my own intuition. I have tried to listen to any prompting, inspiration to try something, a book that seems to keep jumping out at me…there are always gifts and signs that can guide us to situations that will help us grow beyond our current state. I was listening to a podcast of Koren Motekaitis (she has a great podcast show) and she was interviewing someone named Renee Sievert who was a Equus Coach. I had no idea what that was, but I was drawn to her passion and excitement and then she mentioned working with horses. Deal breaker!! My interest was even more heightened, because I have always had a thing with horses, their wild essence, their spirit, watching them run…whenever I have had bad dreams throughout my life, I envision wild horses running and it seems to calm my soul. Not sure why, so a coach who worked with horses was very interesting to me. I listened to the podcast, immediately after I began to scroll my phone for anyone in my local area who did this type of coaching. I was hooked!! I instantly signed up for a class & was scheduled for a week later. Here we go!!!

I wasn’t sure what to expect from my experience, but I went with an open mind and heart, ready for anything. I met up with a great coach, Erin Cutshall who was within about 15 minutes from my home & we began our day with hugs & a walk through the ranch to grab our first horse, Ginger. She was a spirited, cinnamon colored horse that I openly admit was a little intimidating. She entered the round pen and began to kick and neigh, running in circles and bucking with spirit. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with her. Erin began to explain how horses have a “Leader Mare” they follow in a herd. She has to earn the respect and leadership with every horse that is present. Erin ran through some of the steps horses go through when testing one another for leadership and then the signs when they begin to give in and follow the leader—to be friends, to want to have a meal together.

Now, this whole experience was primarily for me to understand myself and seek answers to why I have felt so disconnected to people. I have struggled gaining trust in friendships and have not had the energy to engage with enthusiasm, so I have no friends. I explained how I didn’t like feeling like I was trying to learn and grow spiritually, but everything I read or watched emphasized the need to have close social ties or connections. It was so frustrating to feel so disconnected and not feel a need for others in my life. I did not understand.

She began training me in how horses are able to “mirror” people & will let off the energy they are feeling within the round pen. She explained how if you don’t hold a high energy or an “inviting” energy, the horse will not follow your lead. She talked about how intuitive horses read the energy we carry & if it is not a leadership, or your best self that is being shown—they will not be interested in you. Erin began asking me questions about me, my needs, my disconnection issue, my alone time, if I enjoyed being around people or if it felt like a drain…She helped me to understand that I have a very ‘Introvert’ personality and being alone is very vital to my personal needs. She helped me see that it was okay to not enjoy being around lots of people and that conversations can be very draining. She expressed how I was energized by being alone and social situations were draining to my soul. I cannot tell you what a weight was lifted in truly understanding my feelings. I had felt all those things, but having someone see it outside of me, hearing my needs and allowing me to be—was freeing. Erin helped me see that when you understand yourself, what your needs are and being able to take care of those needs, then you will be your best self—the leader that lies within.

She then invited me into the round pen & began giving me cues of where to stand to make the horse do what I wanted (to move, to run…) it was harder than I thought. I LOVE seeing horses run, so of course I wanted to see the horse run, but when I tried to get her to move, she didn’t listen. My energy wasn’t strong enough for her to listen. It took some practice & finding my playful energy to send her into motion. It was amazing. She ran and ran & then when my energy began to drop she would slow (like me). I stopped & wanted the horse to follow me. Erin walked me through the final steps to win the horse over & she followed me step by step around the round pen.

We worked with three different horses, all with different personalities & it was exhilarating. It was a craft that took time, learning to angle my body, getting over wanting to lead like I would with a dog. That was another aha moment for me. Erin explained how most people are used to leading like they would a dog, but Erin quickly got out in front of the horse and began to say things like, “please come over and love me, follow me, be with me, listen to me.” the visual was so pathetic and disempowering that I instantly imagined how in our own relationships we could be like that with people. BUT, if we learn to be our best self, take care of our needs, then people (horses) will be drawn to us. The energy we carry will free us from the bondages of being small, acting small & will allow us to be who we are meant to be–to shine, to radiate, to be strong, to lead and guide. It was even relevant to parenting. Think of almost begging your children to spend time with you, to listen, to respect you with a tone and action of leadership and love vs begging. You want those around you to admire and love you, to want to be around you because of the good energy you send out.

Watching Erin was even more amazing because she has been able to master the art. She put me in a large arena with one horse & had me try to get it to go through different sets of cones, but the one caveat, I could not get it to follow–I had to lead it. It was harder than I thought. A couple rows near the fence–easy, but when I was determined to get the horse out into the middle and have it go through an aisle of cones–no can do!! I tried a couple different tactics, but my reasonable brain couldn’t problem solve because I figured I would have to go one one side of the horse and then run over to guide it the opposite direction. I finally gave in & just walked through the cones and had the horse follow. Erin smiled & was happy that I had at least finished getting the horse to go where I desired. I explained my only reasonable thought of how to get it through the cones & threw her a challenge to see if she could do it. She smiled and agreed to the challenge. She right away led the horse through the cones—I couldn’t believe it. She explained and showed me how when she began to give the horse space, it would then come in closer to her & that ended up putting the horse right where she wanted. It was an art. I couldn’t believe it.

I enjoyed learning the parallels of life and the energy we carry. Horses are definitely a mirror, when I got calm, they got calm, when I got excited they would run, when they were confused by my needs and wants they did not follow, one actually began leading me by sticking her head out in front of me, so I was behind. When you give them space, they want to follow. It’s a balance, a dance, a harmony between two spirits. It was a beautiful experience that I will always cherish.”

Here is an amazing Ted talk by Koelle Simpson who trained my Equus coach & is very passionate about her work. It is definitely worth a watch. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lbKF9qCGHg

-Heather

Exploring the cognitive effects of Music.

The wonderful PP1MT was inspired by my use of music to tap into an emotional current whilst writing my NaNo novel. It was my first time, using music to fuel my words, and it was an incredibly rewarding experience. While words can stir your mind, music can quiver through your heart and soul, carrying you away on an adventure found only through notes and tunes. Go read his post–he makes fantastic points :)

The PewPew Diaries.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Alex of Valourborn, whose works have intrigued ever since I chanced upon it while waddling in the cascading blogroll of the WordPress Reader in the early days of my little adventure. During November of 2013, she took part in the annual novel-writing project Nanowrimo, and ever since then I have bugged her constantly for her to release her novel. And then, it finally came – attached to the email was a .docx document with a dozen pictures.

alex's email

It’s a good day :)

She also told me how she drew inspiration from music, and that these song tracks have indeed shaped her story. When applicable, the respective tracks and a portion of the lyrics were highlighted in blue and placed prior to each chapter; like a prelude to the main story.

About a good three quarter past the book, I…

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The Hero in the Horse

When I think of a hero, I envision someone who is strong and brave, graceful and spirited, bold and compassionate.  I see someone who makes their own path, who doesn’t bow to a challenge, and who needed to work hard to build such unshakable faith. I imagine someone who is complex and an inspiration–and of course the embodiment of valour.

And when I envision a hero in such a way, I can’t help but also envision a horse.

I’ve loved horses for the better part of my life and am fortunate enough to have been riding for eight years now. I have had so many experiences that have changed my life and built me up as a person, just from interacting with or observing these beautiful creatures.

Horses are incredibly strong. You can see in their broad shoulders the power they possess, the ability to carry heavy loads, to travel great distances. It is a fearsome strength, but what makes it so incredible is that horses are such gentle animals. They spook at shadows, reflections, and plastic bags. They can feel your heartbeat when you’re riding and respond to it as if it was their own. And they have a special spot on their noses that’s softer than anywhere else. I am drawn to the sensitivity of horses and the powerful connection that can be made in a gentle touch or a quiet word. Though strong, they are soft, sympathetic to the world around them.

Horses are full of inspiring spirit. The grace and energy of a horse running in play is breathtaking. The ground trembles under the hooves of even one horse, and it goes right up your soles and into your heart. They’re an unstoppable force of pure soulful expression as they become one with the wind and become rulers of the earth.

Because I work on a farm and have been riding for eight years, I’m fortunate enough to be able to spend a lot of time with horses. We’ve become a team as I sit in the saddle and we both build confidence and trust. We’ve become friends as I spend a quiet moment stroking their noses. We’ve become fellow chasers of the wind as I watch them run from the other side of a fence.

I’ll never forget the day I went into work and the fields were shrouded in mist. The image of a horse standing silhouetted in the gloom, looking ghostly and beautiful, is one that seemed to have come from a dream. It makes me hope that when I die, my soul will become a horse just as ghostly and beautiful as that.

I’ve learned a lot about myself, just from being with horses. I’ve learned to trust my own capabilities in situations that scare me. Horses are unpredictable–I have to be observant and ready for anything. But because they spook so easily, I can’t be nervous. Riding has taught me to ground myself and find calmness, even in the face of fear.

And to be gentle. It’s only when you’re quiet and still that horses will speak to you, through their deep brown eyes with such thick lashes. I’ve learned how much can be said in silence, in compassion, in gentleness. I try to carry the peace with me wherever I go.

Horses have touched me deeply and I know that each one of them has within its soul the spirit of a hero. I am so thankful to have been able to meet so many of these souls. I hope that I can learn their strength and their sensitivity, and perhaps make my own soul into a heroic one some day.

What animal(s) do you think has the soul of a hero?

May you be of strength and sensitivity, and never forget the value of gentleness.

-Alex

It’s All Yours

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists… it is real… it is possible… it’s yours.”

-Ayn Rand

One of My Places

So while I was away on my three week vacation, I did some travelling west to visit my friend. I really haven’t done much travelling in my lifetime, and so much of the landscape I’ve witnessed is pretty flat, with maybe some rolling hills here and there. This time, though, I travelled far enough west to see a whole new landscape: the Rocky Mountains.

I’ve never actually seen mountains in real life, so this was an incredible experience for me. It was amazing to drive along the road and see them getting larger and more distinct on the horizon, and then to get out and see them all around me, big and beautiful and totally real. And then, after a bit more driving, to actually get to hike in the mountains–that was downright awesome.

I remember standing in the parking lot of one of our pit stops, breathing in the fresh countryside air and turning 180 degrees, admiring the mountains ahead of me and thinking, Holy cow, this is real. I’m actually looking at mountains. I let it sink in for a few minutes, trying to sear the image into my mind, and then had an even better thought:

My character in my book–she’s doing the exact same thing right now.

Remember my post “Walk In My Footsteps“, where I said that I was walking beside the heroes in my story in the forest? It was the exact same thing. See, the characters I write about only walked through the forest in order to reach the mountains–their final destination. So the fact that was looking at mountains, that they were going to be my destination, made me feel again as if I was standing right beside my character, taking in the same sights and feeling the same awe as she was.

I love it when I get out of the house.

I spent that day feeling a lot like a hero, imagining what I would be thinking and feeling if I was on a quest to get to the mountains, and I realized that there are certain places in the world that have that sort of effect on us. There are places that are powerful, whose stories resound loudly in our souls. There are places that make us into their heroes. They put the knowledge in our hearts that we are something great, that we will do or have done something worth remembering, and that we will be someone’s hero, one day.

For me, I’ve felt like a hero while walking through trees and while travelling to distant mountains. They’re places I relate to, places I associate with the heroism that I’ve created with my words. These places speak to me, and they make me feel just a little more connected to the dreams I’ve imagined for myself.

I hope that you all can find at least one place in your lives where you feel like a hero. Where you feel like you’re worth the world and you remember that you’ve done something great. Where you know that you’re important to somebody out there, whether you know it or not. Where you realize that there is a story waiting for its hero.

A place where you feel connected to your dreams, and where you will make it your quest to never let them go.

I’m grateful to have found some of those places in my life. Especially places that relate to my book–this book that has been a work in progress for two years and seven months, with which I frequently struggle. Those places that make me feel like a hero remind me that I’m doing something right with my writing, and that’s some of the best encouragement I could ask for.

Do you have a place where you feel like a hero?

May you find somewhere in your life that connects you to your dreams and speaks loudly to your soul.

-Alex