Just steps away from the hustle and bustle of the Monday market in Mirepoix is the Cathedrale Saint Maurice. Opening the scarred wooden doors, you step into the 14th century. The cathedral is lit by dancing sunlight streaming through stained glass, and by the soft whispers of candles lit in remembrance at the side altars. Simple wooden chairs await the faithful. A broken-winged angel stands watch over the high altar. The labyrinth in the crypt is no longer open to visitors – only a wall plaque notes its presence. And of course, there’s a harp. (All images © Janet Hince 2014.)
I had my first harp lesson on the evening of September 28, 2004. My harp lesson on September 29, 2014 was the tenth anniversary of first sitting in my teacher’s studio and putting my fingers on harp strings.
When I told my teacher that I was celebrating the tenth anniversary of beginning harp lessons with her, she said, “That is so cool! Not everyone can look at the last ten years of their life and say they’ve learned how to do something completely from scratch. You have a lot to show for what you’ve been doing with your life for the last ten years.”
And so I do. The harp is no longer a “someday” dream. it is my real, live life, every day.
A few months after starting lessons I wrote in my journal, “Becoming a musician is turning me inside out.” And so it has. The person I am today was formed and forged on the harp bench. Staring down childhood demons, laying aside the cloak of invisibility that protected me, and having the courage and confidence to take myself out into the world to be seen and heard are all gifts from my harp strings.
I’ve always liked a structured path, with the milestones to be reached clearly defined, and then noted and checked off the master list as they are achieved. When I started my blog four years ago, I despaired of ever having any sense of direction about learning to play, or of having any sense of myself as a harper. But the harp taught me to trust emergence, to trust that what I need to learn next and do next will reveal itself with quiet and attentive waiting, much like seeds nestled in the dark earth await the right season to send out their first green shoots.
The harp is no longer about being good enough or worthy enough or skilled enough to play. For the first time since beginning the harp years, I know I really can play. The harp is not a challenge external to me that I must master, with a required set of skills that I must be able to perform. Instead, the harp is a part of me. It is where I have my place, where I feel completely alive. It is, as Ruth Ann once told me, “where my passion has found her voice.” It is where I both see for myself, and express to the outer world, who I am, and who and what I love. It is where I am home.
On the first day of my photography retreat in France, we drove through the winding roads and steep foothills of the Pyrenees to reach Rennes-les-Bains, a tiny Languedoc village perched on both sides of the river Sals. Artifacts discovered in the village indicate that Rennes-les-Bains was known for its hot and cold springs even before the Romans established colonies in the area.
The village’s narrow streets inch up steep hills and twist their way down to the river. Around every corner there are surprise bursts of colors aglow in the late summer sun. Come explore the colors of Rennes-les-Bains with me. (All images © Janet Hince, 2014.)
I returned to Paris and Internet access last evening. Thanks to the Air France pilots’ strike, I had a very long train ride from Toulouse to Gare Montparnasse, and what was supposed to be another day of Paris sight-seeing was limited to what I could see out the windows of the #92 bus back to my apartment.
But this morning I was back in tourist mode. I headed to Montmartre with the hope that I could see all of Paris spread out before me. Alas, Paris is in the middle of a smog alert, and when I looked towards the city all I could see was a dingy gray haze. But all I had to do was turn around to see this carrousel.
This is Hugo and his Paraguayan harp. He’s played at Sacré Cœur for many years, and sells his CDs to people like me who are suckers for busking street musicians, and especially busking harpers. You can see and hear Hugo in this video posted in 2008.
I leave the City of Lights tomorrow morning, and will gratefully sleep in my own bed tomorrow night. I’ll share more photos of my France adventures once the jet lag abates a bit.
The Musée national du Moyen Âge, better known as the Cluny Museum, is best known as the home of The Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. The museum’s statues, art, stained glass, and tapestries provide windows into the lives of the people who were alive when the Gothic cathedrals of Paris were being built, and show that music was an important part of life in the Middle Ages. There are a couple of harp sightings, too! Come have a look:
I awoke to another bright, blue-sky day in Paris, a perfect morning for visiting le Jardin du Luxembourg. I am finally getting the hang of Paris buses. I found the right bus stop and the right bus without getting lost and having to accost a stranger with my butchered French to get directions (of which all I can usually understand is “left” and “right”.)
Luxembourg Garden is an immense green space that provides respite for weary Parisians and tourists alike. As I walked through the column of plane trees, I inhaled the aroma of flowers and newly mown grass instead of gasoline and diesel fumes, and listened to birdsong and children on the playground instead of horns and sirens. C’est magnifique! Come see the garden with me. . . . .