Monday, November 28, 2011

Lessons from a fever

This picture has nothing to do with anything. It's just a favorite image of my friend and favorite opera singer, Amber Peters.
If this blog is a little strange, blame the cold medicine.

I woke up on Thanksgiving Day and, as usual, got to work helping my mom with the preparations. I didn’t drop the turkey this year or commit any of my usual holiday atrocities, but that’s mostly because I noticed, around midday, that I had an ache high in my throat that two mugs of  my favorite ginger tea couldn’t banish. Shortly after that, the dizziness and the aches arrived, followed by something that felt a lot like fever, though I’ve always been bad at noticing when I have one of those. By evening, I had what looked like white colonies on the inside of my throat, but a rapid strep test found no actual bacteria—it’s just one hell of a flu infection. Further evidence that God is an iron.

I should explain that last bit, shouldn’t I?

It’s stolen from a Spider Robinson book—from a short story, in fact, called “God is an Iron.” The reasoning goes like this: if someone who commits gluttony is a glutton, and someone who commits a felony is a felon, then someone who commits irony is …? Ah, I hear the groans of understanding.

The irony here is that I just put in my two weeks’ notice at a job I don’t particularly like, and ordinarily I wouldn’t feel too bad about calling in sick. But I did just submit my resignation, and now my sense of honor refuses to let me sit back and be sick. I don’t want to be one of those lazy people who puts in their two weeks and then stops caring about the job. This employer has treated me quite shabbily, and in some ways getting sick makes me feel like they were right about me. I am lazy.

Except I know I only get sick when I’m massively stressed and running myself into the ground. If I’m sick, I know the one thing I haven’t been lately is lazy.

Anyway, what’s sticking in my head this week—and what may interest you writers, and perhaps even me when my brain clears—is music. I’ve  never been a terribly musical person, mind you; I took voice lessons in college, and when I filled out the form explaining why a non-music major wanted to study singing, I remember writing in the blank, “So I will no longer be shushed in church.” You know your singing’s bad when little old ladies turn around to shush you during “Amazing Grace.”

But I do enjoy singing, at least when I’m by myself, and after two years of vocal instruction I can carry a tune, at least if I have a bucket. Among other things, I can harmonize pretty well; I have a relatively low mezzo-soprano voice that makes a good backup to a higher mezzo or a full-blown soprano. I’m sort of a natural bass line.

But with a sore throat, I can’t sing. I can barely talk, and breathing and swallowing become a chore, too. So I find myself listening to my favorite bands, especially the ones with distinctive lead singers and lots of harmony in the vocals, and wishing desperately that I could sing with them. Even though I normally don’t sing along with recordings unless I’m trying to write a story to their lyrics, something about not being able to sing makes me want to sing more than anything.

So there’s your story idea. Have you ever noticed that suddenly losing an ability makes you want to use that ability like crazy? You break your leg, and all you want to do is run, even if you’re a couch potato. You lose your command of a language, and suddenly the world is full of people speaking and writing in that language that you never noticed before, and it’s driving you crazy that you can’t understand them.

So what would happen, I wonder, if a character in such a situation suddenly regained that ability—but in a completely new and different way? Suppose I got my voice back, but it was someone else’s voice. Would I still want to sing? Would I sing the same songs? Or would I quit singing altogether because it wasn’t my voice anymore?

Something to think about. Perhaps when the fever subsides. 

And if you're weirded out by all this, then here's a sneak preview of the art for Wednesday's chapter. Now who could this be?

1 comment:

  1. Jude?
    For what it's worth, I wish I'd taken voice in college - but then I wouldn't have had the art elective class, which introduced me to pen & ink.
    I love to sing, and the biggest plus of going to a mega-church is that the music is so loud, no one can hear me ;)