Friday, July 20, 2012

The Forest for the Trees

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life - it goes on.
   ~~ Robert Frost

The meaning I picked, the one that changed my life.  Overcome fear, behold wonder.
   ~~ Richard Bach

I lived in Golden on the opposite metropolitan edge of Denver from Aurora when Alan Berg was gunned down in his driveway by members of a white hate group.  It was shocking at the time, yet not too far in time or place from Littleton and Columbine High School.

I woke with Tim one day in 2001 to watch the World Trade Towers crumble.

And in 2007 as we woke to prepare for a drive to Stanford for a battery of tests to see if Tim could pass muster for a lung transplant, we watched the unfolding news about Virginia Tech.  My niece was a freshman at the school, and it was several anxious hours before she was able to get through to family and let us know she was ok.  It is an indescribable feeling to not know.

Time stands still at times like these.  
Yet, if the past is prelude, there will be predictable aftershocks.  There will be debates about our nation's obsession with violence and guns, but candidates and legislators will take no action.  There will be people seeking their fifteen minutes on Nancy Grace and extended sensational coverage of a trial if one is held.  There will be much second guessing about parental failure of one sort or another and idle questions about why no one noticed odd behavior.  Flowers will be left at the scene.  And soon it will be forgotten...until the next time.

But tonight, I try to center myself, for once even indirectly touched you can't help but remember how fragile we all are, how random life's tragedies strike, and how difficult it can be to find the way to see the wonder again.  But how necessary it is to find that way.

Music for centering and reflection:  Claude Debussy, Clair de Lune
Photo of aspens in Colorado Rockies:  Carrolls

Friday, June 8, 2012

Song Saturday - Four Seasons

Decided the best way to kickstart an unplanned retirement was to leave town that first week as a retiree - clear the mind, decompress, cleanse the mental palate with my favorite fun thing - that would be music. So, off to Vegas for a solo trip to catch a musical trifecta - Santana in concert, the Cirque's "Love" show featuring the music of the Fab Four, and reaching farther back into musical memory bank, capping this quick trip with Jersey Boys, the Tony-winning show telling the back story of the Four Seasons. Polished and well-staged. Fast-paced and somehow gets about 27 song snippets staged as the story moves from the streetlight singers in Newark to Valli as a solo artist. 

When I think of the Four Seasons, I think of harmonies bookmarking a soaring falsetto, black and white tv, and junior high. It was the exact time I was starting to listen rabidly to tunes on my clock radio - a treasured transporter. It's odd to think the Four Seasons co-existed with the British invasion - somehow their sound takes me mentally back further to babysitters with short shorts and transistor radios attached to their ears as they walked down the street - the precursor to earbuds and ipods.

Frankie Valli, with a three octave range, is amazingly still kicking it in his seventies with new Seasons to back up his still-crystal falsetto. Guess as I ponder what's next, I'll take inspiration from an old pro who still tells me, "big girls don't cry."  Move forward and follow the music.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Not Fade Away - Song Saturday

And like the old soldier in that ballad, I now close my military career and just fade away, an old soldier who tried to do his duty as God gave him the sight to see that duty.  ~ ~ Douglas MacArthur

My retirement day from local government service came and went Friday, but I don't know what Douglas MacArthur was thinking about when he addressed Congress and expressed a desire to 'just fade away.'  I wonder if he ever had second thoughts about making that statement.  Just not my vision.

Tim impressed on me the importance of deliberately constructing memories, for at the end that's all we have - memorable life moments with memorable people.  He also taught by example how to face significant endings (he was dying) and mold to the extent possible leaving on self-determined terms.  So, after I processed the word "layoff," then elected to retire from the public sector after 25 years, and consciously worked at rapidly running through the five stages of grief about the loss of my job, I knew I had to deeply consider my last week at work and how I wanted to remember it and, as importantly, how I wanted my colleagues to remember me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Song Saturday - Robin Gibb

A news article, a touchstone to an ethereal voice from the past, through many decades. 
I have an indelible memory of slow-dancing as a teenager at an American Legion dance with my latest mad crush.  The object of the crush is forgotten, but what I remember is the way I felt, slow dancing to a local band cover of "To Love Somebody."  Why do certain songs cement memories - how could I have forgotten the boy, but remembered the song?  Maybe it was always more about my perceptions, my impressions.

I'm saddened to hear that Robin Gibb is gravely ill.  The Bee Gees, a band that many either feel are overrated or underrated, even an object of scorn when the Fever fashions and tunes were categorically declared passe, have always been there in my life.  They recede and then reappear at moments in my personal narrative.

I adored their close, tight harmonies, and was intrigued when I understood that while I was moving, eyes closed, lost in some adolescent fantasy, they were only slightly older than I and already international stars.   With two strong tenor leads and high three-part harmonics, they had a sound that was immediately recognizable.

Somehow the disco period passed me by. I was a road warrior and didn't really have access to radio. Yet I have memories of driving the United States in Ray's eighteen wheeler with an eight-track of Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that I bought at a truck stop somewhere- it was great road music for those long dark stretches on I-80.  But how I loved the move and the groove.  It was almost irresistible.  I knew all the songs - didn't everyone alive at that time achieve peak saturation on that album?  To hear even a few opening bars of Night Fever - you anticipate Barry's falsetto all these years later. I loved the precursor "Nights on Broadway" with the interesting harmonic slow bridge.

But through the long decades and huge Bee Gees song catalog, my favorite moments were almost always when Robin came in on high harmony or with a solo moment.  That voice, like the jagged edge of the dark side of melancholy, with a trembling vibrato, cut through and soared.  The voice suggested pain, loss, vulnerability, insecurity - and kept the group vocals from sounding too saccharine.  His stage presence - awkward, unassuming and self-conscious until he stepped to the mike which he often clutched with both hands as if he was hanging on to life itself. 

This latest composition from the classical work he wrote in commemoration of the Titanic centennial.

After all these decades, still writing, the voice still distinctly his, I consider mortality and the immortality of  music.

Fulfill your destiny
It's there within the child
My storm will never end
My fate is on the wind
The king of hearts
The joker's wild

from "Immortality"
written by Brothers Gibb

Monday, January 16, 2012

One Man, Many Movements

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent. ~~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

We move ahead, we fall back.  We try to stand again.

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s struggles in the 60's are ours today, and we should be mindful that progress is a long, hard slog that requires voices.

He spoke of the need for civil rights and equal opportunity in an era of Jim Crow.  Today, we face political movements which would seek to reinstate barriers to voting, negating our most basic democratic right.

He spoke of economic justice in his Poor People's Campaign.  Today, we are speaking of the 1% versus the 99%.

He encouraged peaceful and non-violent protests against the status quo.  Today, we see the Occupy movements and rallies in Washington D.C.

He questioned the prosecution of the Vietnam War and saw that the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement were linked through views that opposed oppression of others and waste of economic resources on endless occupation in colonizing foreign lands.  Today, we are trying to extract ourselves from wars overseas that have not advanced democracy here or abroad and have extracted an onerous economic toll at the expense of investing in our future.

He went to Memphis in April of 1968 to support striking sanitation workers.  Today, we have Wisconsin and Ohio and Indiana seeking to break unions and invest corporations with more power in the political arena.

King's speech in Memphis on April 3rd, the night before he was assassinated, was prescient and moving and calls to us today.    Voices call to us from the distance of history, urging us to return to the promises of what was written so long ago.  We need to climb to the mountaintop again.