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Lera Auerbach, The Trouble Clef

From My Diary No. 3 – February 2020


Inner voices
Inner Voices – Oil on Canvas by Lera Auerbach


I think of the mountain from Rafael's childhood.
Once upon a time, there lived a woman.
Her name was Soledad.
Nobody lives on that mountain now.
Nobody is left who remembers Soledad,
only Stella (Rafael's mother) and Rafael.
She's also in my memory.
And if you are reading this, she's now in your memory, too.

You may forget about Soledad as soon as you finish reading this.
Or, perhaps, I may make her a bit more memorable
or bring her name again later, so if you forget her now,
you will remember when you see her name later on.

Soledad was 82 years old when she died.
The house, high in the mountains, had no electricity,
and each morning, she would milk cows and look around for snakes.

Snakes loved the sun and would come out to lie on the stones.
Some of the snakes were poisonous, but they only bite if frightened.

Nobody knows how Soledad appeared and from where she came.
She was always living with Rafael's family, although she was not related to any of them.

Soledad never married.
Every night she would make bread in the oven,
enough for the whole family.
She would drink coffee all day long,
and her hands smelled of coffee, bread, and milk.

When we moved to our house in Florida, Rafael bought a machete to protect against the snakes.
He never used it, and the machete was lost,
just as so many things tend to get lost and never found again.

(Where do all these lost things go?)



Before coming to the Mayo Clinic, I was preparing to perform my 'Arctica' with the Oslo Philharmonic.
In my hotel room in Rochester, I had a piano, and after long days of tests and doctor's consultations,
I would return and practice for the upcoming concert.

Very few people knew I was at the Mayo Clinic. One of them was Enric Sala.
Enric is an explorer with National Geographic and my partner in the "Arctica" project.
Enric encouraged me to put my health first and not to postpone the surgery.
I don't know if I would have the strength to cancel my performance in Oslo without Enric's support and perspective.

Fortunately, the presenters found another pianist who was able to learn the solo part in time.
The performance in Oslo went on as scheduled.
I felt like the captain who abandoned the ship, yet the ship miraculously sailed on,
while the captain was left alone on the reefs, bruised and confused.

Each day in the hospital, some part of me was in Oslo, rehearsing with the choir,
rehearsing with the orchestra, practicing alone.
Another part of me was back in the Arctic, listening to its silence (which is never silent)
and trying to grasp the enormity of its solitude.

Arctica – the fragile giant, the North of the North.

Only a small part of me, the least real one, was in the hospital,
trying to walk around my room (ten steps in each direction)
while holding onto the IV stand.

I also used the IV stand in my symphony as a musical instrument –
it is how "Arctica" starts – with the sound of drops falling from an IV stand.
Sound of time passing, ice melting, seconds and droplets melting away.

(Sound of a hospital, of a medical emergency, of life passing or life renewing itself.)



Generally speaking, quarantines need to be continuous –
since at any time in any given place, there are plenty of contagious illnesses.
One quarantine should melt into another.

Quarantines shouldn't be limited to viruses.
For example, when there is a spike in fatal crashes while driving,
there should be a few days per week when driving is forbidden.
Or at least limited to certain hours.
Let's say one would be allowed to drive between 2:00 and 5:00 AM at night
when nobody drives, but not during rush hours.
It would certainly balance things and improve statistics.

The researchers at the Mayo Clinic explained to me that Cushing disease
has only a 30% success rate of treatment by operation in Germany,
while in the USA, the rate of success is 100%.

"How could it be?" I asked.

"We operate on healthy people," the researcher explained. "In Germany, they wait
until you are damaged by the illness. Healthy people have a 100% recovery rate."

Statistics are a powerful thing.

For example, if there is a spike in divorces, let's freeze all marriages for a while.
Fewer marriages result in fewer divorces.

It's not a bad idea to quarantine all children; they seem to get ill much more often.
Healthy children equal healthy nations.

And definitely forbid people from gathering.

(Let's approach life in a way to improve statistics.)



Why would anyone want to gather anyway? I never understood that.
Much better to stay at home and read good books.

Or you can listen to orchestral music using noise-cancelling earphones.
Noise cancellation is vital because this is how audible viruses (for example, news) get in.
The earphones don't fully protect you from noise, so when you are not listening to symphonic music,
you should wear earplugs with noise-cancelling earphones on top of the earplugs.

If someone asks you a question, just nod in response.
Nobody expects you to listen anyway.
Nodding is similar to clicking likes under social media posts –
you just add your support to the ego-boosting activities of your friends.
Nobody expects you to actually read their posts or click on their links (unless they contain cute animals, of course.)
After all, if you start reading and clicking on all posts of all your friends, most of whom you have never met,
you will never live to be 82 like Soledad, who lived alone in the mountain and never owned a computer.

The other positive side of a continuous quarantine
is that the Apocalypse loses its edge after a while.
One can scream, "We are all doomed!" only until one loses one's voice.
After a while, it's no longer believable.

But I'm worried about my parents. They are 82 like Soledad.
They don't fully understand the weight of the impending disaster, even though they have a computer and television and other viral spreading news outlets. They still venture outside and are reckless enough to visit various doctors wherein the waiting rooms they wait for sick people to spread more germs around.

Their refusal to quarantine themselves saddens me.

I have quarantined myself from everyone long ago, for that's what a writer must do anyway.

(It comes with the territory.)



Can poetry and music, serious music, still be written?
In times when people have forgotten how to listen,
how to keep silent, how to remain still?

Perhaps I am starting to sound depressive.
As my doctors have warned me, cortisol deficiency can take its toll.

Every week, I receive a questionnaire from the Mayo Clinic.
The questionnaire is always the same.
It compares my attitude and feelings before and after the surgery.

I don't think my answers have changed so far, but I do not know for sure
since I did not keep my previous answers.
Probably, researchers may find my data disappointing.
They would like to see a graph. A graph is when lines go up and down.
Flat graphs are boring. Flat graphs are unremarkable.
Like rubber ducklings in a bathtub of a polar bear hunter.

Keep it together, I say to myself.
But I am worried that I may not be able to keep it all together
and may turn into a soundwave or break into tiny particles
that no longer make any sense and can't be reconstructed.

(I wish I could go to that mountain and meet Soledad,
who never, I am sure, worried about becoming a soundwave.)



May 14, 2016

November 19, 2015

October 23, 2015

September 11, 2015

September 08, 2015

August 06, 2015

July 18, 2015

July 07, 2015

December 16, 2014

November 29, 2014

August 05, 2014

July 26, 2014

February 28, 2014

February 07, 2014

November 13, 2013

October 03, 2013

July 08, 2013

July 07, 2013

June 15, 2013

April 11, 2013

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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