the flower-power stickers adhering to my growing-up wall and my sister’s volkswagen beetle were these colors. hot pink and orange daisies, yellows, greens, vibrant and happy. and you think that some pantone or pms chart somewhere was the place they originated. but it’s not so.
this is where they came from.
and the tulips stand – proudly but not arrogantly – in their color, in their field. completely present and at ease, they open to the world, giving it all they’ve got. stand in nature and try not to be humbled…it’s impossible.
belleruth naparstek guides you – inside and outside – to quiet. a place of presence, of ease. not trying to push out thoughts or streams of consciousness passing by, but allowing it all to flow. with practice, you can feel the roots growing under your feet, the steady breathing of awareness, calmness.
and, if you are fortunate, you are held gently, right in the middle of tulip petals, and you are reminded, once again, you are alive. “knowing in a deep place that this place is inside of you…that you are better for this…“
like a 1960s romper room book, if you turn my notebook upside down and open it from the back you will find a list. it is a list of projects, stacking up. this list is unlike my other lists, unlike the cleaning-the-basement and attic and closets list, unlike the practical bill-paying list, unlike the job-application list. this is a list of creative projects, things either already started or on the plate of my heart, waiting to be addressed, waiting to begin. it is not unlike a beautiful stack of stones, a cairn of my heart.
and so every now and then i turn over this old yellow college-ruled spiral with craig sharpie-printed on the front, a leftover from some school year. i flip it to its cardboard back and open it like those backward books and add something to my growing stack. unique rocks, with no detailed explanations…they make me dream. they are the play to play.
yesterday at OT i mentioned our smack-dab cartoon. my OT was surprised. apparently, drawing and publishing a cartoon in any format is unusual. when i told her it was one of a few cartoons we have done together, j asked me to describe it. i told her that it was about being smack in the middle of middle age and, since she is, i showed her last saturday’s smack-dab. she laughed aloud – a lot – and said, “so you don’t just go to the grocery store together?” that made me laugh aloud since it seems the cairn of our life together is the stacked stones of these projects we do, holding hands and jumping, in creation, on trails, and, yes, in the grocery store too.
it is with some certainty that i know i will awake with new ideas, that blowing my hair dry – for some reason a time of great creative juju – will bring new stones to stack, fresh energy to explore.
it was in one of those moments i came up with starting a ukulele band where i was employed. i had, on a whim, purchased a tiny black soprano ukulele while visiting with dearest friends in nashville, indiana. i started messing around with it and, one morning while standing in the bathroom in front of the long mirror blowing my hair dry with thoughts swirling in my mind, realized that everyone should (and could) play the ukulele and that there could not be a more perfect addition to the music program i was directing. when i offered ukulele packages for sale through pacetti’s, the local music shop, and announced a rehearsal starting date, i suspected that maybe 3 or 4, or maybe even 6 would sell. all told, we sold over 60. our band gathered each week and in the summer met first in the local lakefront park and later, for years, on our back patio, more sheltered from the wind that would blow our music here and there. it was joy – total joy – watching people who had never played any instrument pick up their brightly colored ukuleles, learn chords and songs and play and sing in community. amazing stuff.
a couple days ago facebook brought up one of those memory photos that show up as you first open the site – this one from three years ago. it was a photo from ukes on the summer patio that someone had taken and posted of me. in the middle of the patio, perched on a stool in front of a music stand loaded with music and clipped with clothespins, ukulele in hand, i was in full laughter. for this was a cairn. and, judging by the laughter that always surrounded us in those rehearsals and others, it was a cairn for others as well. i re-posted it and felt wistful. grief is like that.
just as backpacking seems to bring ardor to our trail-pal-on-video-who-we-have-never-met joey coconato, these projects-following-the-cairns bring us a sense of who we are, what we are. there are times that the flame of a project wanes, the idea conks, just the thought of it makes us laugh till we are snorting. but those other times – the times we can see the cairn clearly, we head to it, it keeps us on track – those are the times that we are playing to play, that we are being true to who we are.
the old file cabinets are in the closet in the studio. at some point i organized all – well, most of – my music, lugged a couple metal cabinets up from the basement and spent a few days filing. there’s overfill in a few cardboard bank boxes on the floor. maybe someday i’ll get to those.
yesterday i was looking for a piece of music i thought i had. i went to the drawer it should be in and starting rifling through the books and sheet music. every title i looked at brought back memories: “moon river” made me think of my uncle allen, who took voice lessons and sang that song beautifully. “all i need” made me think of days at moton school center, comparing ‘general hospital’ notes with lois over lunches of peanuts and diet cokes. “the rose” made me think of earlier years of promise and love.
i forgot about what i was searching for and dragged out a pile of music, sheets spilling out onto the floor as i struggled to pull them from their tightly filled drawer. books – collections of artists or full transcribed albums – called my name, begging to see the light of day. i whispered to them i would be back for them. it has probably been decades since they were opened.
standing at the piano, not another thought in my head, i started shuffling through sheet music and playing. it was no longer 2020, transported instantly back to the 70s, the 60s, the 80s.
had i opened a different drawer i would have found all my old piano books, my old organ music – tools of a student learning her eventual trade. in those drawers are the books my children used for their music lessons, for band and orchestra. in those drawers are the books i used as i attempted junior high oboe and college trumpet lessons. in those drawers are the pieces that kept me on the bench for hours as a child and then as a teenager, practicing, playing, dreaming.
other drawers yield a plethora of more advanced piano and organ music, years of accumulated resources. there are drawers of choir music, both sacred and secular, from years and years of directing and conducting work. and still others house the scores of music i have written, staff paper and pencil, finished in calligraphy pen.
it made me want to just clear a day off. liberate my mind from every worry, every task, every watching-the-time responsibility. brush off the dust of the dark drawers from the lead sheets and scores and play.
i’d love to gather a whole group of friends around the piano and sing through john denver and billy joel songs, through england dan and john ford coley’s “we’ll never have to say goodbye again” and paul mccartney’s “maybe i’m amazed” and david soul’s “don’t give up on us” and the carpenters’ “bless the beasts and the children” and led zeppelin’s “stairway to heaven”, through carole king and james taylor and pablo cruise. through the ‘great songs of the sixties’ book and the ‘sensational 70 for the 70s’ book and fake books from all time. just take a day – a whole day – and sing. and remember together.
in light of the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, this would have to be virtual, i suppose. so that might not be such a good idea. but maybe d and i could just take that day. think of nothing else but music and where it has brought us, where it brings us. our long stories.
a few things can instantly place you back in a moment. songs, scents, pictures. a whiff of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume has me immediately missing her. john denver singing anything off any number of albums of his that i owned places me in my room hanging out on my beanbag chairs with my slick 3-in-1 turntable/8-track/cassette stereo or driving my little bug around the island. wings’ “silly love songs” or elton’s “don’t go breaking my heart” and i can feel the hot sand under my beach towel at crab meadow.
“this is not goodbye. it’s just farewell to the you i recognize. i’ve got a long, long time to learn how to feel you in a new way.” (lowen & navarro: crossing over from pendulum)
thanksgiving dawns. 2019.
thanksgiving dawns. rewind. 1960s. 1970s. i remember waking with great anticipation to watch the macy’s thanksgiving day parade on our black and white tv. my sweet momma, having risen early-early to put the turkey on at some ridiculous hour and my poppo, trying to appear helpful, both dedicated parade watchers, sipping coffee and snacking on entenmanns crumb cake. made sweeter for us new yorkers by seeing it in person on the streets of nyc, my mom would recollect parades-gone-by with horse drawn floats and she would cheer aloud for the tv version, even in the den. dad would be quiet, but he would be grinning, waiting for bullwinkle or popeye or underdog. these were moments i didn’t memorize. i was too young to know that i should. i was steady in the world, surrounded by family who i loved and who loved me and not necessarily given to thinking in the terms “many years later”.
thanksgiving dawns. rewind. 1990s. My Girl and My Boy were little, in pjs, fully engaged in the turkey dance their dad performed with the turkey on the counter, happily catching bits and snatches of a colorful parade i was still enthralled with, waiting to lick the dessert beaters, while i was making a feast of turkey and casseroles and setting a table with candles and cloth. we let the wishbone dry on the shelf for days and sometimes longer, forgetting about it, but eventually, they would snap it, wishes in their hands. i’m sure they didn’t memorize those moments. they were steady in the world, surrounded by family they loved and who loved them and definitely not given to thinking in the terms “many years later”.
thanksgiving dawns. 2019. it is quiet. My Girl in the high mountains, My Boy in the southern hemisphere. we will prepare for a simple meal. we will hike. we will be grateful for all the thanksgivings of the past, for all the thanksgivings of the future. for the thanks-giving of every day. i know that, indeed, despite all our failings, our challenges, our sorrows and disappointments as well as our absolute joys and successes, we are steady in the world, surrounded by family who we love and who love us. they are all here. i memorize moments all the time these days. for later. and many years later.
i have said farewell to too many. but i have learned to recognize them in the kindnesses of strangers, in the serendipities and synchronicities of wondrous things that happen. i recognize them in the gentle breezes that sweep across my face. i am learning how to feel them in a new way. and i know they – my angels – are there.