Watching Callas, Finding Peace

It’s Friday. In December. I’m still having trouble getting used to that one. When I write the date, it’s still coming out as an 11/. Only it isn’t. It is, indeed December. In this whirling, crazy world that’s been the norm this year with bits and pieces of down time, we’re whirling again. Although it may be time to redefine ‘normal time.’ If normal time is what we do most of the time, then whirling is our current norm. 

I’ve also been listening to Maria Callas. A lot. This current obsession began earlier in the year when I learned the Lyric Opera had “Norma” on its schedule. Norma is rarely done, it’s difficult, requiring a belle canto voice to pull it off – the voice of a Joan Sutherland or a Maria Callas. Along with attending the Lyric twice to hear the current production, I began listening to Callas recordings and scouring Netflix for Maria Callas movies.

Currently, I’m watching Callas Forever, a fictionalized account of her late years when she lived in Paris, in seclusion. Her voice was gone; she’d had an embarrassing failure during a Japanese singing tour. She died young, in her 50s. But she certainly whirled through life, a consuming fire of passion and work.

Whirling and passion and life and work. An unsettling combination. Friends on Facebook, students at school, strangers zipping past me in cars, all express an anxiety that seems to be the most common thread of existence right now. It was enough that we were all barely scraping along and somehow managing, now CHRISTMAS! has been added and the time frame to whirl gets tighter. 

In our family, we haven’t even bought our Christmas tree. We always buy our tree around Thanksgiving. And we haven’t bought it because we don’t have time to put it up. We haven’t even had time to begin carrying the boxes up from the basement and strewing the contents across the room in the disorderly joy of decorating because – well, because we are whirling along with everyone else.

And in the middle of whirling and dashing and Christmas music everywhere else, I’m listening to Maria Callas. At about the age she began living in seclusion in Paris, I left behind my dreams of glory and went to live in the Hawaiian jungles in seclusion. Paris/jungle. When weighed as the scales of justice might weigh one’s life and heart, Paris seems to win; but in my life, living in the jungle taught me peace of heart. A forever peace.

Maybe that’s not a skill that can be taught; maybe it can only be learned. And maybe it helps to have lived past the failures of those pre-jungle years and into a life that suits me. And maybe that is why I woke at 6:30 this morning, thinking about Callas and life and Christmas, and began writing.

Because feeling the anxiety and acting out the anxiety are two different actions; just as feeling the failure and acting out the failure are different.

Right now, this morning, no sirens split the air; the day is calm; early sunlight brushes the tree tips outside my window.

Peace on Earth. Peace to you. Peace as a gift offered to us all. Forever. We only have to pick it up.