Monday, September 15, 2008

Altered State

After my mother died, I waited for her messages from the Other Side. I looked for signs that Mom was still here with me. I figured she'd at least cause my music to rustle or nudge my violin case, so I wouldn't get lazy about practicing. Nothing. It was as if she'd abandoned me, and I'd have no choice but to grow up.

For a long while I didn't hear from my mother. I had almost given up hope. But one night she appeared in my dream. She was in our living room, curled up on the puff chair, bewigged, with a coat covering her instead of a blanket, half asleep. Mom had one question for me: Found anything interesting from the library?
That was it. Then she closed her eyes and fell back to sleep.

But I took that as an omen, and like a dutiful daughter, began checking out books by the armloads from the local library. I found some unusual material, like the people I seem to be attracted to, and these books imparted life-altering ideas. A selection of writings I'll mention here: Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Ultimate Meaning, Helen Keller's Light in my Darkness, and Rudolf Steiner's Staying Connected: How To Continue Your Relationships With Those Who Have Died.

Following these readings, I met the visionary pianist Lorin Hollander. After playing Bach's F Minor Concerto together with Northwest Chamber Orchestra, he invited me to breakfast the next day. Lorin might have sensed my eagerness to learn from him, I'm not sure. Playing the Bach with him was as natural as breathing. Hollander's interpretation of Bach felt so right to me; it was as if he had channeled Johann Sebastian to sing through the concerto with him.

At breakfast, sitting across from Lorin Hollander at the Seattle Downtown Hilton, his eyes radiated decency, warmth and compassion. I know it's cliche, but the eyes reflect the soul. We talked about many things, from the burdens of exploited child prodigies to the depravity and spiritual void of today's world.
"Our paths have crossed for a purpose," he assured me. I nodded and felt honored. "That would be nice." I told him about some of the interesting material I had been reading, especially the writings of Rudolf Steiner.
"Great individual," he said. "I've read all of Steiner's works relating to the curative approach to teaching. So, tell me," he paused, while sipping herbal tea and munching on fruit."Have you undergone any unusual experiences?"
"Um, what do you mean?" I traveled out-of-body during the pedantic renditions of Nutcracker, but that didn't count.
I shared my stories with him. Although I hadn't experienced the supernatural first hand, Ilkka and his first wife were awakened in the middle of the night by the ghost of Victor Aller, the legendary pianist, playing flawless scales at breakneck speed. I could boast I had experienced this through association.

Our discussion turned from ghosts and the after life to the here-and-now. Lorin Hollander enlightened me about the transformational powers of playing and teaching. For this I'm truly grateful. He instructed me to substitute a new word for teacher and musician, and with that one word came a whole new attitude.
"Healer. We're healers."

Illustration by Zela Lobb

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