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'Receive' acrylic by me
Yesterday I had a conversation with my brother. It has been five years since I have seen him or spoken to him. This lack of contact did not come out of any kind of fight, but rather two siblings very busy making their way in the world.

The interesting thing about this conversation, was that it wasn't a catch up meeting. In fact we didn't even ask each other anything about our current lives. We went right to the heart of the matter. Our creative hearts.

He expressed his passion of wanting to dive into learning the piano. He asked how long it would take to climb his pianistic Everest? I expressed my desire to write, for real! To take it as seriously as having lungs. To embrace it as a part of me, without listening to the part of me that makes me want to hide and keeps me limping. He told me my ability to play classical music was like lightening and his guitar playing and composing songs was a mere candle, and how lucky I was. I laughed at how I had always felt the opposite, that he was the electric one. How I wished I could write a song and sing in the way he did, where he embodied the performance, all his own creation!

Let me back up. This conversation came from us dipping our toes in the waters of connection which after five years for me was vulnerable...he sent me a text encouraging me to learn a Beethoven sonata that he is passionate about, which funnily enough inspired my first blog post in a long while! You can read about that here. I let myself fully sink into the joy of communing with both my brother and Beethoven, engaging in deep listening of not only Beethoven's Sonanta, 32, op.111, but my brother's soul, who finds himself deeply immersed in the writings and letters of a man who gave everything to his art, who was largely misunderstood and struggled to see his own brilliance--oh and who became deaf. My brother expressed to me how Beethoven, deaf at the end of his life, only then expressed that his piano playing was improving. Talk about a harsh self-critic! He also reminded me of how many of Beethoven's greatest pieces, Beethoven never actually could hear with his ears. He also told me that Beethoven didn't tell most people he was deaf, so they thought he was an ass when he didn't respond!

As I listened to his last sonata, op. 111, there was a renewed wonder that I could hear something the composer could not. And yet, he did not hold this as an excuse to quit. I am so humbled when I think of what I have allowed to conquer me in comparison--but I give myself credit, that even if being dragged by the horse at times, I keep holding on...keep showing up, keep learning.

Back to my reunion with my brother. I left him a meek voicemail, expressing that I felt like a pretty bad sister for five years of silence, but bravely, I did not let that stop me from leaving my voicemail. Turns out I had to call back twice and fill three voicemails before I was complete (okay, those who know me, know this isn't unusual).

So to our conversation yesterday:

I told him how many fears and doubts I had, and he told me with reverence this:  he used to sit on the heat vent of our childhood living room and listen to me practice the piano while we were growing up, and how his listening and my playing had truly affected him. How unknowingly I was planting seeds for his own musical career and musical expression, and making connections within him toward classical music, especially Beethoven. He expressed that he had been touched his being by my interpretations, and it has colored his world.

This was one of those moments that is hard to put into words. As he told me this, I felt the equivalent of my soul falling to its knees, as he touched a place within me that felt like light. A piece of my soul gathered back to me. He told me not to doubt myself as an artist, writer and pianist, and that when I doubted myself as a mother, a friend, a daughter, a sister, to remember that I had no idea what was affecting the lives of others, just by being me, just by playing my piano, just by writing and painting, and learning to be me. I heard this between the lines: that it was safe to allow myself my own blooming schedule, and I could trust it. I didn't have to rake myself over the coals anymore in comparison or prescribed timelines.

And away I came from our conversation with a deep and quiet allowing, to let myself bloom in my own time. To embrace that blooming begins from birth and ends at death (although I am quite open to it going beyond death) and that there is no real way to asses my own progress, but that there is permission to fully engage, and find out what I care about, and what my heart wants to experience.

When I was in college, I played a Felix Mendelssohn piece called, "Duet" from his compilation Songs Without Words. It is a hauntingly beautiful and beseeching duet between the higher register and the lower. When I played it, I had just learned about Mendelssohn's tragic and early loss of his most beloved sister, which left him changed and torn apart. I remember being sure that this wordless song was their duet, his song from the earth, and hers from beyond the grave. Somehow this music could transcend a final and helpless separation. I remember how I felt as I played this song imagining that I read their story with my fingers, as the composer sang with her ghost, as each told the other of their love and devotion, and that despite her death that they were immortal through their great love and honoring of one another.

I have always felt that to see another fully, and to be seen fully, as in deep into the unique and shining soul is perhaps the greatest gift of this human adventure. I believe it is the only thing that does endure in our human spirit and that perhaps even travels in tact to the beyond with us.

A resurrection of sorts with my own brother. We sing to each other now, gifting back parts of soul, sharing our songs. Perhaps it was meant to be a five year stretch, as we ironed out our capacity to give and receive.

I honor my brother returning, and I could never have predicted that it was his light that would become a beacon on a road that had become a little too dark and rough.

My brother tells me with such obvious clarity
that I am worthy of my creative heart. I sing back the same.

Perhaps the most perfect duet that I could imagine.


  1. My heart is so full...your very words, music to my heart and soul! Love you both

  2. It amazes me how two people can have such different views of a situation. I imagine your brother listening to your practices, wishing.... And you oblivious to his presence, yet years later, after five years of silence, the two of you come together and discover such treasures.
    The Duet, is a wonderful post, Brooke. It speaks of love and gifts and magic, lots of magic.
    It's the alchemy of truth, vulnerability and acceptance. I hope to hear more of you and your brother, and of, Beethoven's Sonanta, 32, op.111.
    I love you sooooo!

  3. Such a beautiful and moving post. I am so glad you and your brother are in touch!


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