Musing on what I could do to keep myself occupied in the spaces between singing during the coming months, I decided that this would be my Year of Illumination. Interpreted to mean, of course, whatever I want it to mean at any given time. For the moment, I intend to look into manuscript illumination, inspired by the superb examples in the Gutenberg Museum, to re-read all my books on philosophy, and to keep my eyes and mind open for any other possibilities. I've already re-covered a paper lantern here in the flat (although I'm not entirely sure that the end result is not more reminiscent of Amsterdam than the warm red glow I intended) and I suspect that yesterday's example of keeping my eyes open was not entirely illuminating, as such (after a superb meal in a Vietnamese restaurant, a friend and I were offered complementary little cups of rice wine, which we accepted with pleasure. Really only a thimbleful, and disposed of in a couple of sips - but just as I was taking my final sip, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a little figure in the bottom of the cup. Intrigued, I asked my friend if she had one too. No, she said, inspecting her cup - there's a sort of marble embedded in the bottom, but nothing underneath it. I looked into my own cup again - the figure had disappeared! Briefly, I mourned the passing of my mind, but then looked again at the marble-like glass, wondered about optics, and poured the last of our jasmine tea into the little cups. Sure enough, in each case, a (very naughty!) little female figure appeared. We were highly amused - but I thought, ah, if we'd just chucked the stuff down our gullets we'd have missed that particular laugh. Which is, of course, pretty far off course for musings about illumination, but anyone who's read this before will recognise my strange meanderings!).
The other thing I'm determined to do this year is learn to juggle. Absolutely no idea why, but this is definitely the year for it. I bought a set of juggling balls yesterday, complete with instructions (thankfully in English, as I'm having enough trouble understanding them without another layer of language!) and have so far dropped them all repeatedly all over and under the bed (I thought that learning to juggle over a parquet floor would be desperately unfair to my downstairs neighbour!).
Of course none of the above is meant to interfere with the serious business of learning repertoire or of continuing to study and improve my German language skills, but I feel strongly that outside interests which involve different areas of the mind and body are immensely important, to complement and idneed enhance one's major interests. I feel far more refreshed by concentrating on photography or crochet or whatever it might be between study sessions than I ever do by, for example, flopping in front of the television. (For more detailed and coherent thoughts on this subject, I highly recommend the work of Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, especially the seminal Flow; cannot even begin to pronounce his name, but I thoroughly agree with his ideas; they should be of particular interest to any performer.)
I'll try to post pictures of anything I manage to illuminate or be illuminated by, starting with the photo above of the beautiful overhead lights at the Christmas market.
I must say, too, that the Silvester (New Year's Eve) party at the theatre complied nicely with my theme; a few moments after the New Year was counted in, I found myself waltzing in the open air in the arms of a handsome man, and watching fireworks burst astoundingly above my head. (Literally above my head - I watched unbelieving as countless members of the general public cheerily fished large fireworks out of their pockets, balanced their glasses of wine in the other hand while lighting them, and set them down in various corners of the square, with not a single official supervisor or fluorescent jacket to be seen!! Reminded me of my childhood; I definitely don't think you'd be allowed to get away with that in today's Britain!). Start as you mean to go on!!