Thursday, April 15, 2010

A life so loved

Tastes vary. It's what makes us human and unique. I know people who don't like popcorn, or apples. I'm not a HUGE fan of cilantro and fennel myself. My cat prefers folk music to big band jazz. I know people who do not care for Garrison Keillor, which to me seems so hopeless. It's like disliking one's Grandfather. Gently clever, master story teller, the sort of person it would be wonderful to be snowed in with on a long winter night. A man who comes from a land where long winter nights are a simple routine part of life. A man who finds minutiae and can make a story out of it.

Garrison Keillor

Maybe, unfairly, it's his singing. It has certainly seen better days. It reminds me of my grandfather's own frail voice warbling through the halls of his home in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where it leaked out of the corners of the windows and drifted out over the wild lawn, the bird feeders, the splintery back porch, and finally out into the woods to be heard by the creatures that lived out in the tangle. To us what sounded feeble must have been strong in the sepia days before electric guitars and extended families. I wonder what it must have sounded like to hear the clear notes and confident crescendos. Voice leaves before music does, and in Grandpa's case music outlasted his eats as well as his voice box. As long as I knew him he would dart through the house trying to catch up with the songs in constant rotation in him mind. Old Irish ballads, hits from the 1940s, old television jingles, and folk choir hymns. He was a man who taught his children to sing in four part harmony. The breaking tremolos were merely gestures of once was; abstractions rather than sketches. His voice was a drawing that was slowly being erased, line by line.

Grandpa

***

Singing is a lot like drawing -- everyone CAN, but not everyone DOES, because people have come to the conclusion that they SHOULDN'T. Part of the problem is the breadth of genuine quality out in the world. It is so easy for all the creative things that we admire to become alienating, rather than inspiring. Me, I want to be good, but I don't want to be alienating. I want to encourage people to live their lives fully. Imagination requires nurturing even though it was complimentary.

To misquote Mr. Keeting: we do not make pictures (or sing, or write poems) because it is cute. We make pictures, sing and write poems because we are members of the human race.

***

I listen to the writer's almanac when I remember to. I used to every morning before getting onto the bus to my Difficult Job. It did not help me feel less anxious, but it was a nice anchor point.

It's good to hear poems out loud. In lieu of delving into another complicated world, or asking Anthony to derail his ambitions for my own selfish soul, I let Garrison Keillor do the research and I let him read me a poem over my morning coffee. Often the poems are contemporary, so I was pleasantly surprised today to see Wordsworth sitting on the main page. I have heard segments of "I wandered lonely as a cloud" -- almost everyone has -- and I'd heard many parodies. I've probably written a version during a study in college. But today was the first time I'd heard the poem read aloud with the cadence and respect it deserves, and I was completely spellbound.

But it is the small details of other lives that I find so compelling about the Writer's Almanac. The antidotes that breathe life into these names we have read in books. Today, so many years ago, Wordsworth and his sister were walking.


Dorothy wrote in her journal: "When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow park we saw a few daffodils close to the water side. We fancied that the lake had floated the seeds ashore and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more and at last under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever glancing ever changing." (...)


The sun rises over the teeming butterflies of wonder. I think of a time when walks in the woods, daffodils, were worthy of a lengthy segment in the journal at home, a journal no one would read until years later when the historians came to dig out the thoughts and soul of person. We must remember to pause a comparable amount for such reflection these days. Remember to let a thing like beautiful fields of flowers fill us with joy. A joy that has to be shared.

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