A leaf drifted down from the clear sky to land in the stream below. The waters were calm, and the falling of even such an insignificant thing as a leaf sent ripples across the crystalline surface. Trees reared up to touch the sky; they continued for further than I could see into the distance.

I was standing on a rock, its many faces smooth and polished enough that a dull glow was reflected from the sunlight pouring from between the leaves overlapping ahead.

One ray of light shone down on a harp, a harp beautiful enough that just looking at it, without even hearing the smooth melodies that would undoubtedly pour out of it, took my breath away. It seemed to be in Nature's spotlight, on a stage of its own, its golden sides glinting in the sunlight. Its strings beckoned me, begged me to play, and I longed to run my fingers across the golden strings.

A line of stepping stones ran across the water to the other side of the bank, the side the harp rested on. I jumped onto the first stone without a second thought, and in a moment I was on the other side. Another rock sat behind the harp, almost like a stool, and I sat down, my fingers trembling in anticipation.

I had never played the harp before, but I did not question how, in this dream, I knew how to play. My fingers flew across the strings in graceful, fluid notes, and I played for countless moments, enchanted by this wonderful glade.

Even the forest animals became enchanted by the haunting music the harp created. Slowly they crept in from all sides, some content to stand in the sidelines and listen. A fox, bolder than the rest, came to lie beside me, setting its head down between its paws with an audible huff.

And in this glade, with a harp so ethereally beautiful that even the animals were captured in its grasp, I flew, carried by angel's music, into the endless sky that lay beyond.

I've always loved music. It became a substitute for almost all else in my life. It was a mentor, a friend, a comrade. Lover. Parent.

Even my dreams were of music, and that one particular dream led the way to many blissful nights, hearing the soaring music of the harp, feeling the strings beneath my fingers, even as I slept soundly.

And so the great composers became my closest friends. Mozart and Beethoven intimate companions; Liszt and Handel I knew like I knew my own face. And Rachmaninoff? Rachmaninoff was my favorite of them all. We rejoiced together, mourned together, dreamed together.

My earliest memories are of my parents taking me to music halls, going to concerts, almost every weekend. We must have made an interesting picture, a small girl, no more than a toddler really, clinging to her parents' hands. My father was tall and strong, especially to my young eyes, and his fair hair looked like strands of gold in the sunlight, his blue eyes watching me with a smile.

I have often been told that I was an exact miniature of my mother. We were both small, delicate, with strangely vibrant blue eyes and almost black hair. Later, as I grew older, I would envy my mother her almost exotic beauty and simplistic grace, but when I was young, I adored every fiber of my mother's being.

When we went to concerts, I would watch the musicians and instruments as intently as I listened to the music. And although I found all the instruments in the orchestras beautiful, it was the violin that truly captivated me. The soft, graceful curves of the instrument itself, the stark contrast of its strings against the dark fingerboard, the arches of the violinist's fingers as they flew over the rich wood.

By the time I was four, my parents had allowed me to begin violin lessons, and I was ecstatic with joy. My parents' friends would coo over me, laughing at the small girl and her even smaller violin. These comments lasted for two or so years, and after a while, I bristled at their comments. They seemed to think that violin was just a passing whim, something that would soon blow away like dust motes in the breeze.

Perhaps the only people who truly understood my dedication to music were my parents and my teacher. My mother, I knew, was aware that I'd fallen in love with the violin the first time I'd ever heard it, and knew that I would dedicate my whole life to the instrument.

However, I soon proved my parents' friends wrong, catching up to and surpassing the talents of much older students. I began to find new teachers, teachers who'd managed to make a name for themselves in the seemingly unending mass of music teachers. Though there were times when I wondered what I had gotten myself into, and times when I would rather have done anything besides practice, making music quickly became the biggest part of my life.

I had everything I needed and loved. I had my music, my parents, and my life was utterly perfect.

But that was then.