Susan Blood—aka Opera Betty, aka Trout Towers—grew up in a small mountain town in Colorado. Her parents were both from Boston, though, so the family spent a few weeks on the east coast every summer, with a couple of those weeks on Cape Cod. “When our cottage rental was confirmed and the dates were set, I was literally counting the days until we got here,” she remembers. “I’ve taken an extremely long time figuring out what I want to be. Maybe I can blame it on growing up in a place I didn’t really belong. We tried on western living like a costume. It was like New England in the Rockies. It turns out people I grew up with were honest-to-God cowboys!”

Her love for and expertise with music started early, with family involvement in a student festival orchestra in Colorado. Music students from all over the country auditioned for and performed at the festival. “Their schedule was brutal, with three different full-length concerts a week, all summer,” Blood says. “The amount of repertoire they went through was mind-boggling. We went to all the concerts, so my sister and I racked up some pretty serious symphony time, too.”

The experience was participatory as well. “We spent a lot of time with the musicians, and that informed my music sense even more than the concerts our mom took us to at the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and the Santa Fe Opera. The musicians were in college, so they were just as likely to play Devo records as Dvorak in their downtime! And they loved the music so much, and would tell us what to listen for. I remember sitting on a French horn player’s floor, listening to Salome. Somewhere around here I probably still have the tapes of King Crimson, The Police, and Talking Heads a timpanist made for me.”

Blood didn’t think much about sharing her experience and knowledge with others until “at some point I realized that being musically bilingual could be useful,” she says. She started writing a column about opera that didn’t use any of the usual opera language, and which evolved eventually into her gig as Opera Betty on WOMR. “I love that WOMR lets me share the music the way I was introduced to it,” she says. “There was nothing highbrow or inaccessible about it. On the show I play things you never heard of, and things you think you should probably know. I also try to explain them differently because synopses can be pretty dull—and baffling!”

Her other two loves—performance and writing—also grew organically out of Blood’s experiences. “I was insanely shy when I was little, and very mousy. In fact, my greatest claim to childhood fame was dancing in the Denver ballet’s Nutcracker … as a mouse! We performed at what is now the Ellie Caulkins Opera House for several weeks and I got to miss some school. It was fabulous.” But it was only onstage that she overcame her natural shyness; Blood also had a small stuffed mouse named Wallis, and Wallis did most of her talking for a few years.

And then there’s Trout Towers and writing. “I’ve always loved to write,” says Blood. “When I was a kid I had one of those portable typewriters that looks like a suitcase. I’d find quiet spots around the house in which to write detective stories about mice.” She pauses. “Do you sense a theme? I was also a prolific letter writer, back when letter writing was a thing. I know at least two people who are hoping I get famous so they can sell the letters they saved.” From letters she grew naturally into blogging and her Trout Towers persona (which is seriously excellent and funny: see her blog and Facebook presence). “It never dawned on me that people would find and read it, but it ended up making me some great connections, which turned into writing jobs, which turned into a book.”

That book, How Not To Do Things, is simply wonderful. As her website explains it, “You’ll learn how not to catch a mouse, how not to prepare for an emergency, how not to renovate your home, how not to try on a bathing suit, how not to take up a hobby… You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll be glad you’re not me.”

But there’s depth behind the humor. “I think it’s no coincidence that I migrated to a place speckled with lighthouses,” Blood muses. “Lately I’ve been pondering light and lightness. In February of 2017 I was finishing my book and all I could think was how trite and trivial it felt at a time when we faced such deeply consequential topics. In hindsight, light is what many of us needed. Not making light of serious topics, but leavening them. We need a way out of the rabbit holes we’re all diving down, and showing that there’s a way through little things implies a way through big things.”

She pauses. “I am not the intrepid explorer I once thought I was, but I can be one of many lights on the shore.”

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