green sounds different than red which sounds different than blue. green looks different than red which looks different than blue. green feels different than red which feels different than blue. so a color field of all three would seem to emit, depict, emote a wide spectrum.
i’m pretty sure that mark rothko and i would have been friends. his goal: “to capture the essence of basic human emotions on the canvas and then evoke those emotions from his viewers.” (masterclass.com) my goal: to capture the essence of basic human emotions on the piano and then evoke those emotions from my listeners. instruments – the canvas, the piano – that tap in. yes. friends.
in my mind’s eye, i can see a tour. all over the country to different art museums that house a mark rothko or two. a big yamaha concert grand on the wooden floor, placed in front of the giant color field painting, paused in silence, waiting. abstract expressionism on the canvas. and then, the translation – abstract expressionism on the piano. action. color field. repeat.
i’m pondering this painting green, red, blue. in thinking and feeling green, i ponder what i’ve already composed that sounds, feels, looks green. in thinking red, i ponder what i’ve already composed that sounds, feels, looks red. in thinking blue – specifically blue-around-the-edges in this case – i ponder what i’ve already composed that sounds, feels, looks blue.
in a push of creative courage, i can see this tour. in a room void of people or full of people, i imagine me and the painting and a piano. high ceilings, the swoosh of the sustain pedal brushes against the walls and swirls around. no other sound. yet. and then.
i’ll play for you i’ll play for you i’ll play for you
the 1977 graduating class of john glenn high school chose this song as our theme song. before the decision and ever since, it has remained a favorite. seals and crofts dominated our senior variety show – the one for which i wore a full wet suit including fins and played a piano duet -, our graduation, our prom, our yearbook. they played over and over in my bedside cassette player, on radio, on stereo systems throughout elwood and, likely, everywhere.
just last week jim seals died. he was 80. and suddenly, again, time flashes in front of us.
because somehow, listening to their music, i am back at 17 or 20 and they are in their early to mid thirties. but the years come and go and the journey keeps journeying, faster and faster it seems.
and so the moments and presence become infinitely more important and the stuff becomes less. the grand illusion of foreverness becomes foggy and we learn – little by little – sometimes, though, with ferocity – that we must be-here-now. we graduate and grow and regress and grow again and start to see that full spectrum is not so bad – that belly-laughing and weeping are both, indeed, necessary and that as we vine-climb from dirt to sky we are only really here to be with each other.
our beloved daughter was here for a couple days. any time we see her or our beloved son are those kind of rare-gift moments. we giggle and poke fun and talk and reminisce and ponder and there’s eye-rolling and i am astounded by them and, always, i cry upon their leaving or upon our parting. it is the hard part.
i know that we just never know. life has a way of teaching us that – again and again – though it is easy to forget, to push it aside. but the further up the vine we get, the more we recognize it. it is all so fragile. we may never pass this way again. simple. true. a calling, an imperative to say the stuff, to be vulnerable, to experience, to love, to acknowledge, to laugh, to cry, to be-with.
one of my sweet momma’s favorite stories to tell me, about me, was when i used to stand in place and bellylaugh. she said i would put my tiny hands up in the air and then deeply bend at the waist and bring my hands down, up, down, repeating over and again, all while laughing heartily. it made everyone nearby laugh, hearts-open. it made her giggle to tell me this old story. and each time she told it i felt deeply loved.
i remember my first baby’s – The Girl’s – bellylaugh. it was extraordinary hearing this wee child, knowing little about the world, laugh. it felt like the same miracle when it was my second baby’s – The Boy’s – turn to chortle with all his little body. their giggles made everything in the moment alright. they are deeply loved and their giggles still to this day make everything in the moment alright.
so perhaps that’s a good place to start in the quest to be better humans. perhaps bellylaughing first about the sheer unlikeliness, the improbability, that you get to live this very instant, in this very place, at this very time. nevermind the division, the hostility, the challenges, the histrionics of forces-human-designed. you are here. i am here. no matter how same we are, no matter how different we are. we are in this together. that’s a start. now commence betterment.
“so, i wanna laugh while the laughin’ is easy. i wanna cry if it makes it worthwhile. we may never pass this way again. that’s why i want it with you.” (seals & crofts)
he spoke about humans today. how it all really boils down to a measure of how we live in community that is the important stuff. the never-pass-this-way-again moment-after-moment-ness of how we help each other, hold each other, support each other, raise each other up, love each other, regardless of the each or the other.
momma loved the verse “i shall pass through this world but once. any good, therefore, that i can do or any kindness that i can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. let me not defer or neglect it, for i shall not pass this way again.”
maybe the beginning of being better humans is that simple. let’s share this moment. let’s be amazed we are in it together. let’s be amazed we are in it at all. let’s learn how to be in community together. even in the hardest stuff. it’s a worthy exercise to see two people or two disparate groups defuse a hot and angry moment communicating with humor, to temper down with a lightness of spirit, to divert what could divide them forever, instead focusing on how to move forward with generous hearts.
maybe “let me drown in your laughter” (john denver) is a good start. maybe love will take shape in the pause of anger overtaken by a wave of kindness and gentle temperament, an intentional defusing of heat. maybe then grace will flow in like the tide of change. maybe then we can recognize what we have been, what we are, where we want to go, who we want to become – together. mindfully knowing “we all do better when we all do better.” (paul wellstone) maybe then we can – together – have the real conversations, sob the gut-wrenching and worthwhile cries, see our human failings. and we can take a tiny baby step toward being better humans.
yesterday a small peaceful protest drove and walked by our house. we live on a street perpendicular to the more important streets, the more likely avenues for protest. yet, right in front of us, right in front of our house, was this marvelous group of people marching and driving, chanting and beeping. we stood and clapped, joining their enthusiasm, echoing their pleas, and couldn’t have been more proud to see them go by. and we laughed in those moments of living, joining, hearts-open. not bellylaughs, but audible smiles, exulting in the baby steps, right here, right now.
it is at that place in my memory where i can juuuust-about-touch-it-but-not-quite – the first time i heard, ‘ don’t stare into the rearview mirror. that’s not the direction you are going.’ i can’t quite remember when or where i first heard it, but it was one of those comments that i stored away as a wisdom to feed off, something that would give me strength in a moment of weak, something that would give me hope in a moment of despair.
we have all walked in different shoes on different paths. we have passed through challenges of which we may never speak; we have had successes about which we have never bragged. we have been hurt; we have hurt. and we have healed.
“healing does not mean going back to the way things were before…” (ram dass)
the thing about healing is what it teaches us. we can never be un-hurt. we can never undo what was done or what we did. we can’t return to the baseline; it has vanished with the winds of change. in a million tiny pieces of glitter, it’s in that proverbial rearview mirror.
but we can ride the river of our breathing into new normal. we can carry with us learnings and soft words of apology. we can pack our virtual baggage with tools of prevention and fairness and forethought. we can pick up techniques of negotiation and navigating in the process of coming-out-of-pain. we can avoid the temptation to retreat from moving forward, thinking that healing means it’s all back to what it ‘was’ before.
instead, we can step, in blind faith, into next, trusting that healing will bring us to a new place, a new start. that healing will have somehow gifted us, given grace to all involved in ways we may never know or understand. that healing will be like dawn, like rain, like birth.