Sunday, January 3, 2010

Protozoan Park

I visited a beautiful little island last fall and I want to go back, but even though it’s not far from my home as the bluebird flies, getting there involves crossing a stretch of water that is too wide for me either to swim or paddle my venerable canoe.

During my voice lesson this week, I approached a different kind of gap between where I am and where I want to be, with much the same results. There is, my teacher explained, a passage between the notes a soprano sings comfortably and those a lyric soprano can reach. I stretched a tentative vocal cord toward the edge of this passaggio, like a swimmer warily extending a toe toward the water and, just like the swimmer, jerked back again. Cautiously, I edged bit by bit out of my comfort zone and into the realm of wavy notes and reedy tones, fully aware that what’s holding me back, more than anything else, is fear. Fear that I won’t sound good.

And that’s exactly what happened, because Fear is so powerful that it’s self-perpetuating. Like amoeba.

Writers face these terrible protozoans every time we want to grow into a new phase of our lives as storytellers. I imagine drivers do, too, when they decide to leave the street and try the fast lane of the track, and engineers who want to build a better bridge. Artists, athletes and innovators of all kinds, in fact. And, as far as I can tell, everyone who wants to expand an old role or grow beyond it.

What we address is the stretch of open water between where we are and where we want to be: that amoeba-infested passaggio.

However, microorganisms are, by definition, small. I am not. I can use brute force, sweep them away with strong winds flowing over my vocal cords…oh wait. That means practicing, right?

Okay then. 

And this summer when I’ve also learned how to sail and I cut a wake across Amoeba Channel to that island, I’ll sing a little song – way up high.

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