To be a great performer and interpreter of music, one thing is certain; you must be a guru of patience. Patience is intended broadly here, covering both physical patience (self-awareness) and mental patience (attitude).
When I saw the photo above, it spoke to me on many levels. I saw in the image a seasoned veteran of nature, a man (and his dog) ripe with experience, tough, tempered.
I also something else, a dream of sorts being experienced by the man and his dog from that very real perch on the gnarled stump of an ancient tree. Both man and dog appear to be following the huge winged creature (perhaps a great heron, which symbolizes balance and contemplation?) flying away from them over the tree tops.
The lake or pond over which the great bird flies seems to curve beyond into some unknown, perhaps a little stream, something beneath the bird but in the shadows of the woods.
The man seems comfortable watching the scene. He is at peace with himself, with the miraculous flight of the great bird, and with the unknown beyond. He knows nature's powers first hand from his life in the woods. (in the image, he seems as if he lives there in those woods) And he also feels a reverent respect for the never-ending magic of all nature's beauty.
Nature is both hardening and liberating in this image. It is the giver and taker, so to speak. Only by basking in its beauty can one find the courage to endure its hardships.
This image spoke to me on those levels. And I saw that the metaphor of nature and the message of this image could also aptly describe the tempering effect of being a classical music performer; the mind-bending tedium of detailed practice, the (relative) physical danger of so much repetition and tension and fear which every performer must master in order to thrive.
It is only in the past few years that I truly understood the nature of the musical "forest", it's tempering double edged sword; one edge offering a dynamic emotional redemption seemingly hidden in a great piece of music (even more from a great performance of such a piece); the other edge simultaneously gnawing away at sanity in the often impenetrable thickets of music's technical mastery, the land-mines of over use, or of even slight misuse over decades.
No one comes away untested from the choice of performing music for a career, just as no one who lives in nature goes unchallenged by her forces.
But the great bird can occasionally be seen majestically floating over the breathing forest, into an alluring but uncertain future.
Is it a question of like or dislike? "Yes!", I say. I'll take the awe of magnificent beauty whenever it happens, whether it be from Nature or Music.
And I will try very hard to remember that awe when I am soaked and cold and fearful of a future. Sometimes I forget.