Diving

I spent this workday morning at an event that was both somber and joyous – a memorial service for a member of the Wolf Trap family. Mary Frances Pearson founded Wolf Trap’s Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts in 1981, and she was a steadfast and enthusiastic fan of Wolf Trap, its education programs and its opera company. She lived a long and beautiful life, but as always, it was hard to see her go.

Mary Frances’ daughter-in-law delivered the homily, and she used an analogy that will stick with me a while. She spoke of the act of living as diving deep below the surface of the water; struggling to get to the dark undiscovered territory at the bottom, grabbing a fistful of the things there that no one else had ever seen, then breaking free and springing with burning lungs toward the light. The evocation was primarily spiritual, but I was struck with the degree to which this analogy describes the artistic life both in its sum and in its daily small parts.

Artists of all types (and don’t think that if you can’t paint, sing or dance that you’re not an artist…) can lose hope when the road seems long and lonely, and their path gets dark. But that’s how we get at the stuff that only we can bring to the light. It has to get dark and dangerous before we can find what’s important, but we must have the courage and faith to keep diving until we truly find it. Then we can take it, hold it tight to our chest, and churn to the light to share it. So it is with life, with music, with anything that can stay.

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