The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The true magic of music

Music is so ubiquitous in our culture that I’m not sure we really hear it.  It’s on every television program, including the news, in every movie, on our car radio, in restaurants, and it comes as a complete entity.  It’s just … music.  And it’s so easy to think of all this music as monolithic, rather than being made up of so many instruments, so many hands, so much careful breath and reading of notes.

Because I have no musical talent whatsoever, not a drop, a fact that is commented on by all members of my family whenever I attempt to sing or even hum, the pleasure of music perhaps means that much more to me.   And there is nothing I can think of, with the exception of holding a child or the hand of a loved one that makes one aware of true magic than watching a concert of really good music, not just listening but watching as well.  There they sit, the musicians, playing so many different instruments, but every one of them making up their part of the whole.

Within one week’s time, we attended two concerts.  The first was a concert composed of young people of different schools all over our area, who had been awarded high ratings and thus were invited to participate in a series of concerts.  These young ones had never worked with the conductor and never played the music they were given to perform, but such was their skill, and that of their director, that the music they rehearsed and played was lush and full.  The second concert was a local symphony, comprised of professional musicians.  It too was wonderful.  Luminous.

But here’s the thing:  how do they do it?  How do so many individuals, of such diverse personalities and backgrounds, manage to read little black dots on paper that were written by someone they will never meet, begin a piece of music together, play the same music together, stop together?  How do they all read a language that goes back centuries, that can be read by people who don’t even speak the same language otherwise?

Well, here’s what it seems: first musicians learn to read those little black dots, somehow.  Then they learn to play an instrument, somehow.  Then they learn to play an instrument according to the little black dots.  Then they learn to play in tandem with fellow musicians.  Then they sit down together and decide together to make some magic.  It’s the only explanation.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Terribly wonderful

Most of us in this country, indeed most of those in the civilized world, have a memory of where they were and how they felt on September 11, 2001.   Many, too many, have painful and permanent losses to deal with.   For myself, we were far from home on that day, and I truly felt that the world we knew had ended.  Which, in fact it had.  So when it was announced that there would be a movie, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which would touch on those tragic events, our first response was, “No, we don’t think so.”  Then we learned who was to be in this movie, and the cast included so many of our favorite actors:  Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Viola Davis, Jeffrey Wright, Max von Sydow, John Goodman, people we felt we could trust to do such a subject justice, and we said, “Well….”  Then we learned more about the story of the film (and story is everything, to us) and we asked ourselves, “How could we not see it?”

And I’m so very glad we did.  Everyone is predictably excellent.  The story is beautifully done, at the same time simple and deeply layered.  The child actor makes you believe he is dealing with the personal problems of the child character.  These problems would be unique and difficult enough, if they did not also include the loss of an incredible father under horrific circumstances, and you share the pain of this family of grandmother, mother and son, while the story is told from so many different directions.  Being one of those who cry at Hallmark commercials, I am always loathe to see any movie or play or read any book that wants to make me cry.  But this movie is not like that.  I did just fine throughout the entire story, experiencing it intensely but dry-eyed.  Until the end.  Until I got to the point where I could fully appreciate the efforts this family made to move forward, the grace with which they and the families they represented dealt with what they were given.  Until I could see the wonder of the story.

It was terrible in the parts that invoked the events that we already knew had happened; it became wonderful beyond my power of description because of a boy on a swing.  And then I wept.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Some days

Once upon a time we were able to spend a few days in Galveston, Texas, and found that the Elissa, a genuine, wooden, historical tall ship, was kept in port there, next to a wonderful museum.  Well, it had long been a dream of mine to simply see a tall ship in person, and we found that we could actually board the Elissa and stroll around it.  We have a photo of me standing at the wheel, looking for all the world as someone whose feet are about two inches off the ground.  Absurdly exhilarated, I then walked around and encountered a woman down on her knees, scrubbing the deck.  “Oh, it must be wonderful,” I bubbled, “to have the opportunity to help preserve this wonderful ship.”  She looked up wearily from her labors, and murmured, “Some days.” 

How perfect a response is that?  What was for me a unique experience and encounter represented, for her, a lot of work.  A labor of love, I have no doubt, but work, really hard work nevertheless.

That expression, “Some days,” has become one of our family’s catch phrases.  Because we all have our commitments and enthusiasms and they are special and meaningful, but some days they are exhausting and demanding.  Parenthood is like that.  Gardening is like that.  Marriage is like that.  Cooking, cleaning, even taking vacations – all are like that.   Yes, even vacations, although that’s another story.

Now the hard-working woman I encountered on the Elissa didn’t specify which of ‘some days’ that particular day was, but I suspect that for her, it was one of the reality-check days that she knew made the care and continuing wonder of the Elissa possible.  For me, that was a day that made an unexpected and glorious memory – it was really ‘some day!’