I finally saw Carla last night, first time after her return from Mexico. She looked gorgeous and glowing despite having spent all week in the studio laying down vocal tracks for her next album. She told me it was a hard day--a hard week. Even though she still has amazing technique, a gorgous tone, and a style nobody and nothing can take away from her, she noticed that her diaphragm is not as strong as it used to be, making it harder to control the intonation. Big leaps and little glissandos of notes no longer come easily on the first take. Some of her upper range is not as powerful as it used to be.
She can still sing the hell out of the songs, with a greater depth of feeling than before, and a richer sense of the story she wants to convey. But the technique she used to have at her fingertips is no longer so accessible and it was hard for her to be with that, to be in that, day after day, in the studio.
She told me, and her eyes filled for just a moment, and I felt a surge of fear in my gut that I'm sure she had experienced also; what does this diaphragm weakness mean? is it just fatigue and stress and medication, or is the ALS advancing more quickly?
I felt so honored just to witness the bare reality of the moment. I know what an artist she is, how more than anything else, singing comes right from her soul, and what a perfectionist she can be.
"I don't know how much longer I'll be able to sing the way I want to," she said bravely, looking right at it.
I said, "It's like you're freezing your embryos now." She nodded.
When I went home, C asked me, "How's Carla?"
"She's okay," I said. "She's freezing her embryos."
His face registered shock.
"Not those embryos. I mean her songs. She's laying down as many songs as she can while she still can. It's hard."
And it is. Life is hard but beautiful.