The sky was fire and tropical ocean and newborn skin this morning. A front is moving in to what has been clear, crisp Autumn weather, and the sun rising east of the clouds made a spectacular display of the bowl over the world as we drove to school this morning.
Ravel’s “Pavane For A Dead Princess” happened to be on the radio, providing a lush soundtrack to what should have been a hectic, little bit late drive, as cars swirled around the school like angry bees. I couldn’t seem to get agitated, though; the world around me made me grateful for the excuse to get up, even after a night with too little sleep. We moved through the streets in a peaceful cocoon, cresting a hill and exhaling as the trees opened and the sky surrounded us.
Sunrises are fleeting, changing with each moment, and by the time I dropped my daughter at the curb at school the sky was just a pale, morning blue with gray clouds moving in. I should have taken a picture when I could, but I simply didn’t think about it. The moment was all there was. It’s a little bit like raising kids, I guess. The beautiful moments are fleeting but change your outlook on the whole endeavor, enriching what otherwise would be an ordinary existence.
Perhaps the weather will turn colder today, perhaps it will rain. It won’t make any difference to me. A little bit of this morning’s skyfire will stay with me throughout the day, simply because I was up and witnessed it.
I took a day off from writing yesterday and I was watching the heavens and waiting for the lightning to strike all day. For the past five or six months I have been requiring myself to write and post daily, but yesterday I didn’t make it. I know myself. If I break a streak, I have been known to give up on it, so I was being very careful to post. Some days it was a stretch to find something to write about, but that was part of the effort required: to examine what was going on around me and discover something to focus on.
So now that the streak is broken, what to do? Well, I was having a hard time coming up with a post today, too. I had already broken my promise to myself. What would one day more matter? No one would care anyway – no one but me, that is. With that realization, I stilled myself enough to notice that the thing at the heart of today was that I had not written and posted yesterday. What better thing for me to analyze, then?
Why didn’t I post? I could have found some time and energy to do so, even though I played trumpet at three Easter services and had a long, leisurely, luxurious brunch out with family after. I could have found something to write about from my pile of half-formulated posts in my pending file. I thought about doing so a number of times, as I went through my day, with various degrees of concern. Earlier in the day, I felt anxious about not having already written something to have ready. After all, I knew last week that the day would be busy. Later on, though, when there actually was time to sit down and think, I felt very peaceful about it. I was happy, and content, and fulfilled. Anything I would have written would have been forced. I gave myself permission to skip a day, even though it meant breaking a streak.
So here I am, back on the horse again. No less happy, but still enjoying writing, and sharing, and most of all, the act of examining my world.
It is always days when I have too much on my mind that I have nothing to write. The distilling process in my brain hasn’t had enough time, and decisions need to be made or changed. I go to write down one thing, and the scene changes. I adjust, and it changes again. The act of thinking too many things stops me in my tracks sometimes.
There are days when I would just like to wipe the board clean and wait silently for whatever new will show up. This seems to be one of them.
Anyone Can Whistle – music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Anyone can whistle,
That’s what they say-
Anyone can whistle
Any old day-
It’s all so simple:
Relax, let go, let fly.
So someone tell me why
I can dance a tango,
I can read Greek-
I can slay a dragon
Any old week-
What’s hard is simple.
What’s natural comes hard.
Maybe you could show me
How to let go,
Lower my guard,
Learn to be free.
Maybe if you whistle,
Whistle for me.
Sometimes I wish I could find all of the poems and stories I wrote in college. I vaguely remember them, my memory being worlds away from photographic, but there were a couple I recall fairly well. I ran across two of them in a file card box I was sorting this morning. I remember the girl that wrote them, but I don’t know her anymore.
There was a writing assignment in college, due on a Monday, of course. Sunday afternoon I spent several blank hours trying to come up with the required poem and depth of thought, and the only thing that materialized was a lamentation on writers block and how it made me feel. It was what I was living at the time, so was a rather immediate and heartfelt offering, meeting at least those two requirements of the assignment. I just can’t bring myself to embarrass that college student that was me, so I won’t post the poems I found. Perhaps my creative writing professor appreciated my ode to writer’s block all the more for it having been preceded by stuff like that.
Today I’m feeling a little like that Sunday afternoon girl of so long ago, though posting in this blog is a self-imposed assignment. That’s one of the changes that occur as you grow up – you make your own goals and targets. Does that make it easier to miss them or more difficult?
There are a few things that make life enjoyable, things that really don’t contribute much to the good of the world around us. A lazy Sunday, for instance. Closing my eyes and raising my face to the sun. An afternoon nap. Success on a difficult etude after days of work. The pause in my mind just after I finish a good book. Laughing over something silly. Serendipity. The discovery of a purple flower in the brown garden. Waking in the night to a quiet house. Saying something at just the moment someone else does, mind on exactly the same wavelength.
Sometimes I get so caught up in the mundane operational details of life that I forget to just enjoy those around me and enjoy the time I have with them. Conflicts arise, schedules interfere, mistakes are made, moods change. Things are ever shifting and I cannot get back time and experiences, but I’m learning to slow down a little and appreciate what is here every day.
Some days are certainly less enjoyable than others, but if I look hard enough, I can find at least one little thing to enjoy. The hard part is to remember to look, but I’m getting better at it.
There is no cure for birth or death save to enjoy the interval.
~ George Santayana
I’m frequently caught by a waft of fragrance as I pass by our blue hyacinths sitting at the end of the counter. They smell to me of earth and leaves and my grandmother’s florist shop, and though the scent is as strong as a dowager’s perfume, it brings me only good memories. It engenders a bit of hope every time I notice, and the stalks get taller and unfurl their blossoms more and more each day. We stake each shoot up before it breaks so that it will last longer; they get heavy with purplish stars.
The joy and promise of a bulb forced midwinter brings me more than just a flower. It provides me with a bit of green to focus on and nurture in an otherwise white world. It reminds me of tiny buds emerging from dead-looking trees, the haze of weak sun, the smell of damp earth after a rain, and the prickly feel of grass moving from winter growth to lush spring shoots.
Though I know in my head that Spring will come, sometimes my heart feels that the world will never grow again. It rained yesterday and almost melted the snow, so I had a brief glimpse of the ground. As the day wore on, it turned back to snow, dashing my hopes and depositing another couple of inches of fluffy, clean snow over the old. At least it looks renewed, but it was not the look I was wishing for.
For now, the flower-pot in the kitchen serves as a reminder that no matter how bleak or hard things seem, time passes, and seasons turn. The sun will win it’s way through the frosty air and piles of snow, and we’ll be warm once again. Soon.
Driving past the local oil change station, my eye was caught by their sign board. It said, “Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there!” I shook my head and chuckled, thinking that the sign had done its job. It had gotten me to notice their business and had deposited its little ray of sunshine in the world.
Then I thought about it for a minute and realized that, no matter how trite, it wasn’t a bad piece of advice and fitted particularly well with my recent endeavors. What happens when I get discouraged by how long getting back in shape is taking? The more I practice and the stronger I get, the longer I practice. It gets hard to eke out the time. I have been lucky in having a few opportunities fairly drop in my lap. It won’t always be so easy, and I’ll have to go looking for places to play and face a degree of rejection, either of my level of skills or just being the right person for the situation.
Making the decision to stick with it through thick and thin, or “until you get there”, is not a minor thing. In our lives we start and abandon scores of activities, projects, and ambitions. That’s all a part of trying new things, or setting unrealistic goals, or just a matter of having our attention usurped by something else. When I was younger and less set in my ways, there was more experimentation and less goal-oriented behavior. Then I settled into the things that suited me best, sometimes taking the avenue of least resistance, and my goals had more to do with career and family and making it through daily life. Now I feel able to apply that daily grind persistence to an interest that I’ve chosen to return to. There will be no getting back what I have passed over or missed in the years I was, for all intents and purposes, musically idle.
It’s a bit of a mulligan, a do-over, but if you can’t use the lessons you learn through life, what chance is there to move forward?