Friday, September 3, 2010

Time Warp

I was sketching a rehearsal at Bob Carr Performing Arts Center and I wanted to sketch a concert at Unity Church as well. I wanted to sketch both events but I knew I would be late to Unity since my sketches take at least an hour and a half to do. Sultana Ali was to be singing at the Unity concert. I fired off a text when I finished my Red Chair Affair rehearsal sketch. She texted back that she would be singing around half way into the concert. Although the concert had already started I decided to make a dash up to the church to try and catch her performance. I texted her that she needed to slow down time a bit. When I walked into the church three women were on stage singing "The Times they Are a Changing." I spotted Sultana and her friend near the front on the right hand side. Sultana waved me over and I sat down. She showed me the program and indicated silently that there was one more act before she went on stage. She gave me a thumbs up and I smiled.

I immediately got my sketchbook out and got to work. I had the whole composition blocked in when Sultana got on stage and then I placed her at the microphone in my sketch. She sang "Summertime", a lazy sensuous southern tune. When she finished, the place erupted and there was a standing ovation. When she walked off the stage, the moderator, dressed in his 50's beat costume said, "Now THAT is what I am talking about!" Sultana laughed as she sat down.

The final act caught me by surprise. Miguel and Judy Ander sang "Time to Say Goodbye." I had met Miguel the last time I had visited the church and he left an impression. He is at least 80 years old and his face is beautifully delineated with wrinkles and the weathering of time. What immediately struck me when I shook his hand was his enthusiasm and joy. As I listened to this beautiful song I flushed and my eyes began to sting. I had to stop sketching and just listen. With this elder couple singing so beautifully, I started to think about the idea of growing old together.

This week I had just started sketching portraits of residents of a local retirement community. I had sketched Captain Pete who will be turning 101 this year. Author Mary Hill had interviewed him the entire time I sketched. His story was profound and moving. He spoke of life and death issues faced in war time, the importance of choosing friends and loved ones wisely, and he explained the spark that keeps him motivated even today. I learned so much about myself from having spent that time with him. The elder couple singing on stage seemed so in love. This is what it must be like to grow old together with faith and love. All these thoughts rushed through my head as I listened. It was useless to try and stop the flow of tears. I put the sketchbook aside. I usually find opera hard to swallow but this song on this day overwhelmed me. I stood when it was over and clapped until my hands hurt.

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