Sunday, September 27, 2009

Penguin Advice

Yesterday evening I went with Christopher and Samantha to a concert by Christopher's piano teacher, Grace Asquith, who performs in a chamber music group called Chamber Ensemble con Grazia. The concert, at the Broomfield Auditorium, was a song recital: Italian songs, Catalan songs, three different musical settings of Verlaine's Claire de Lune, songs by Schubert, songs set to the poetry of Sara Teasdale (the favorite poet of my childhood), an amusing French horn response by CU emeritus professor William Kearns to three poems by Emily Dickinson, and a closing set of three humorous songs. The soprano was the wonderful Maureen Sorensson; fascinating commentary was provided by CU professor Elissa Guralnick.

The first of the three comic songs that closed the program was "Penguin Geometry," by John Duke. In it, a traveler, heading south, comes upon a penguin who informs her that she has already reached the south and can proceed no farther in that direction. "Well, then, I'll go east," she says (I paraphrase). "Which way is east?" "There is no east from here," the penguin tells her. "Well, then, I'll go west." "There is no west from here." With south, east, west, ruled out, all that is left is north. "Well, which way is north?" And the penguin replies that north is here, there, everywhere!

A few years ago I hit bottom in my life. I had no idea which way to go. Every direction seemed equally impossible. If only I had had a helpful penguin with me then, to reassure me that, yes, I had already reached as far south as I could go. And that from that nadir point, every possible single road was heading north.

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