by Lynda McKinney Lambert

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1 When I Begin my Day with Mozart by Lynda McKinney Lambert I put the morning coffee on to brew, then reached for a CD of Mozart s Violin Sonata in. The soft, slow opening lines of the Largo-Allegro began. A piano and a violin gracefully moved me to listen closely to this composition written centuries ago. As the lyrical melody continued, I closed my eyes for a while, then continued writing. There is something compelling about Mozart s music. The music takes me back in time but not to the time in the 18th century when the music was first performed for a royal audience. It is my own time, 36

2 near the end of the 20 th century when the music of Mozart became a core element in my personal life. While I listened to the music, my mind began to take a journey far away. My musings created layers of memories. I slowly recalled my first exciting days in Austria. STORY BEHIND THE MUSIC A unique story lies behind the music. When Mozart first performed the piano part of this composition in Vienna on April 29, 1784, Emperor Joseph II was in the audience. As Mozart played the piano, the Emperor made a shocking observation. He noticed that Mozart was looking at blank sheets of paper instead of written music. It turns out that Mozart did not have time to copy the composition that was in his mind, and did not want the audience to know. So he put the blank sheets on the piano s music stand. The notes were only in his mind, not on those pages. A CELEBRATORY TRIP My first trip to Europe was in the summer of The trip was a gift to myself to celebrate the completion of an important goal. I had finished my Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. Soon after graduation, I arrived in Salzburg, Austria at the beginning of a celebratory time for the city. I was just in time to join in the festivities for the 200 th anniversary of Mozart s death. My Facing page: Salzburg, Austria 37

3 month-long holiday was filled with visits to special art exhibitions in palaces and museums each one focused on some aspect of Mozart s life or music. Yes! I was hooked on Mozart! I walked through his birth house, and death house, and stood inside the churches where Mozart performed the music he had written for services. I found the gravesites of his wife, Costanza, and other family members. I purchased Mozart candy, wore Mozart T-shirts, and sent Mozart postcards to all my friends and family. I had enrolled in a drawing class that was taught by one of my former art professors. We students were in classes Monday through Thursday mornings. I was so excited, and I was prolific in my art adventure. I created a body of work on the theme of Mozart s death and music. I wrote continuously as I traveled and viewed exhibitions and listened to concerts. I made ink sketches on paper, choosing to do all my work black and white. The works on paper would make it easier for me to transport them home in my suitcase. After I returned home, I put my body of work together in a cohesive collection and it became a traveling art exhibition, appearing in museums and galleries. I called my show Memory of a Requiem. TRAVEL JOURNAL I love to keep a travel journal, and I fill my journals with sketches, comments, reflections, and historical notes as I travel. Such notations can be 38

4 valuable sources for creative work that I can do long after a trip is over. In graduate school, I had created paintings, written research papers, and taught undergraduate classes. At times I felt exhausted from working days and nights. When I went back to my apartment for a rest or meals, I often refreshed my mind by listening to Mozart s music. I was particularly drawn to his Requiem Mass because it echoed my own weariness. So, at the end of this phase of my education, my visit to the city of Mozart s birth and death was a natural choice. DREAMING PRAYER While in Austria, I came to a conclusion about an intention for my own life. I realized that I had fallen in love with Austria the art, the architecture, the people I met, and the music of the masterful Germanic composers. I prayed a dreaming prayer that I could spend my summers in Austria every year (I had read about the idea of a dreaming prayer in a book by Catherine Marshall). Of course, I had no idea how that would happen, or if it could happen, but I knew it would be the life I wanted. That is what made my prayer a dreaming prayer it was my dream, and I left my desire in God s hands. I had no idea how it could possibly be. I was not a stranger to the idea of a dreaming prayer, though. Many other things in my life had already come after such a prayer. Eventually, my own professional teaching career began. I accepted a tenure-track position 39

5 at Geneva College, a private Christian college in western Pennsylvania. This was just five years after I had visited Austria for the first time. As a new professor of fine arts and humanities, I quickly realized there was no study program for Germanic Studies, or any educational trips in which students could earn college credits in Europe. I proposed a travel-study course that I would teach. The next summer I was back in the city I love, with students of my own. This was the first of many years that I taught my course, Drawing and Writing in Salzburg. What a joy it is when a dreaming prayer becomes a reality! My students came from across America to work in a studio in a small Alpine village. Most days, we met early in the morning and then traveled somewhere to draw and write at the different places we explored. It was a dream that became my reality. On long weekends, we traveled together through Germany, the Czech Republic, and Italy. We climbed mountains and gazed down in amazement at eagles beneath us. We bent over double, laughing together. We wrote poems and stories in our journals. We stopped only when we ran out of energy. Art was the focus of all we did. We created drawings and paintings in our morning studio and took our journals with us everywhere we traveled. Later, our sketchbooks and journals provided us with information and memories to work with back home. 40

6 OPEN TO GOD S CALLING As I look back a couple of decades to those first inklings of my desire to teach in Austria every year, I see how it all came about after I set my heart s desire to remain open to God s calling for me. Now, sitting here in my office, I listen closely to the final movement of the concerto. The piano and the violin have been playing together as I write. Each instrument is strong and one never overpowers the other. The music continues and I listen to the rapid notes of the piano moving off playfully in what seems like a race with the violin. I can envision a spring afternoon in an Alpine meadow. The violin and piano seem to be romping in the sunshine, chasing each other about on the lawn of a Bavarian castle, or around a formal rose garden in the city. At times, the piano takes the lead, as the violin weaves through many notes. In the end they are one. Applause breaks out as the piano and violin strike the final notes together. This day will take me on other, more mundane journeys as I walk my dogs, care for my cats, cook a pot of chili for my husband, and edit this essay. At special moments throughout my day, I might hear, in my mind, a few bars of Mozart s sonata. And, at the end of this day, all I truly want is to know that God and I have ended up on the same note. Lynda McKinney Lambert, who is legally blind, is a freelance artist and writer. 41

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