Confession: If I could choose a talent, it would involve music. I took six years of voice lessons. I don’t have a good singing voice, but there was a time I thought I’d trade all of these words of mine for a guitar and the ability to play the thing. That, plus a voice scratchy and sweet enough to accompany would be all I needed of gifts. These days, I would be happy just to have stuck with those tedious piano lessons.
When I attended the artists’ residency last January, at the end of each work day out in our studios, the milk of twilight would settle in to the large room where we gathered before dinner. The ceilings were high, the walls a patchwork of artwork and bookcases, the windows overlooking the trail we all took back from our studios and into our rooms, the grounds, a still of an avalanche of the long blizzard that had us snowed-in and wined-up. And the windows were huge. As darkness began to run down the afternoon, we could sit in that room and watch as each of us made our swaddled-way back to the main building to linger awhile before dinner. Some of us would detour first into our little dorm rooms and un-mummy ourselves, then gravitate in towards the magnet at the end of the room. That magnet was the grand piano and the musician-fellow seated there. After a long day of jazz compositions, he'd head into the main room and play for us standards, Wilco, all manner of the melody that winter required. The music he sent through that blueing room made it feel like a kind of prayer hour for artists. Dinnertime became this sacred anticipation of those few minutes before where we came in and warmed ourselves with the music and filled ourselves with good food and wine and the talk of a day’s hard work at the canvas or keyboard. It was one of my very favorites of my half-century of Januaries.
Now it’s January again, and I am back at work, a job I love, but a job, with expected hours of arrival that don’t allow me to traipse about to whatever whenever turns the crank in the little music box inside me. A day ago, Mr. Poppycakes had a big medical procedure and I worried all through the holidays towards it and I worried all the way up it and then felt I wasn’t elated and happy enough when it was over and went fairly well. Truthfully, I was just tired. We say a lot in summarizing any year, but 2017 held a unique amount of severing. People really did cut ties, shout into streets, speak passionately about matters that no one could agree upon no matter how long they spoke, but that didn’t stop them from speaking. A lot. And often right through years-long friendships, ties with families, even. I am not critiquing any of it. I think we should care deeply and fight hard for whatever it is we believe, but as with my husband’s surgery, at the end of it all, we might, too, feel weary.
While in the parking terrace of the hospital last week, a song came on the radio. Despite the nervousness of the morning, my husband waited a moment while I looked it up. He knew that my soul was looking for the filling station of souls and for both of us, music is where we’d find it. I am lucky too, to be with a man with amazing taste in music. He loves classical music and American roots, but can also hold his head high when admitting to loving Tracy Ullman’s They Don’t Know About Us, and calling it the quintessential pop song, a song that’s been the background to more than one of our goofy life-saving kitchen dances. In that hospital parking lot, I needed a song in the holster, and the promise of lighter days and a lighter year, and I am shameless about who will help me sing along to it. It turned out to be Lord Huron, of course, and later, I played some Yarn, but this morning, while I fed the dogs and danced in my own kitchen, husband recuperating on our flannel sheets upstairs, it was Jack Johnson. My criteria is for the opening notes to make my spirit rise up on tip-toes for a second and make me feel like I did at the first snowfall of each winter in my native Utah, like running out barefoot through it, fast enough to leave the cold behind me, slow enough to save the fluffy fall into my own footsteps as I made a zoomy race through my parent's sloped backward.
If I were more of a musician, more trained, more refined, and with a musician's identity to protect, I might care which of these songs was cool enough. Instead, I thought of CD Wright’s words again, invoked them for the zillionth time “you must learn to embrace your humiliating enthusiasms” and then kept on dancing.
I am young enough to do as I do as I wish and love what I love and old enough not to care whom is pleased by it save for me. What do you like and not care who knows it? How do you tend it? What did 2017 sever for you and what can 2018 fuse?