“But suddenly you’re ripped into being alive. And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror, but my god you’re alive and its spectacular.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Monet's "Water Lilies" at the MOMA (detail)

“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy with dropping temperatures.

The headache is gone for now.

So earlier this afternoon was for cleaning. Corey gathered up clutter from outside and took it to the dump. Brett polished the furniture, and I swept the hardwood floors and cleaned off the dining room table. Eamonn is off at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ocean View, a continuation of his 21st birthday celebration. As I’m writing this, Corey is washing his truck; Tillie is helping. Need I tell you how happy he is to be doing this?

Anyway, I’ve done all that I can do for today, so it’s time to write. I’ve been thinking a lot about the word above—commuovere (pronounced kum-wo-ve-ray, with the emphasis on the first syllable). It’s Italian in origin, and while it has no direct English translation, the closest would be to touch, to affect, to stir, to move to tears.

What stirs me, touches me, moves me to tears? Wow. I’m not talking about grief or sadness; rather, it’s a matter of stirrings in the heart. Still, it’s a long and complicated list, but I thought that I would try to share some of the things in life that have moved me or do move me, so much so that I get misty-eyed.

“I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from“ Clown in the Moon”

Believe it or not, I don’t cry often, at least not as often as I used to, but I am very sentimental, which is why I don’t watch many movies on the Lifetime channel because they always have very sad endings. But what genuinely moves me, touches that tender spot in my heart? Here is a partial list, starting with movies:

  • The death of a beloved character in a book or movie. Oh I cried when Dumbledore died, and the death scene for Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring went straight to my heart.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. Who can watch that movie and not be moved? George Bailey as everyman? Clarence the awkward angel? Slays me.
  • Wall-e. Okay, he’s a little robot, but he has such sad eyes, and he’s in love.
  • And speaking of Pixar, when Nemo’s mom dies in the beginning of Finding Nemo? Why do the moms always die in Disney and Pixar movies?
  • That scene in The Lion King when Mufasa, the daddy lion dies. Omigawd. Even though I love Jeremy Irons as Scar, I hated him at that moment. Yes, it was animated. What’s your point?

    The English Patient
  • I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, but when he does the St. Crispin’s Day speech, I literally get chills and tear up. I want to join the fray for England. Take me, take me!
  • Yes, Dead Poets’ Society was overly sentimental, but that didn’t stop me from liking it, so when Neil stands before the open window, I feel complete dread, but when the guys stand on their desks in the final scene? Oh yeah, I’m weeping. Every. Single. Time.
  • And then there is The English Patient. Almásy rubbing saffron across Katharine’s dead lips. Katharine’s final journal entry in the Cave of the Swimmers. Hana’s final injection of morphing into Almásy. What doesn’t make me cry in this movie.

“Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path — but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be lost,
learning how real it is
here on earth, again and again.” ~ William Stafford, from “Cutting Loose”

I remember when I was a child there was this commercial with a supposed Native American man paddling in a canoe amidst pollution. The camera zoomed in on his face to show a single tear. That commercial made me cry, as did the Miller (?) beer Christmas commercial that showed a couple in a sled traveling through the snow with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” playing in the background, no words. I cried. So here are some of the epic moments in television show that have tugged at my heartstrings:

  • When Mark finally succumbed to his brain tumor on “ER.” Agony. Another devastating ER episode was “Love’s Labours Lost,” in which Dr. Green tried to deliver a baby, ultimately losing the mother. Oh, how I cried.
  • When Bobby Simone dies in “NYPD Blue.”
  • When Radar comes into the operating room to tell everyone that Colonel Henry Blake’s plane went down.
  • On “Criminal Minds,” the “Riding the Lightning” episode in which Sarah Jean Dawes, who is an innocent woman, goes to her death in prison to protect the son that she gave up years before. Gideon’s complete helplessness rips my heart into pieces.

    From Dr. Who Episode "Vincent and the Doctor"
  • Two “Dr. Who” episodes in particular: “The End of Time,” in which David Tennant (10) says, “I don’t want to go.” His face in that scene is so sad. And the other one is “Vincent and the Doctor.” In one scene Vincent, the doctor, and Amy lie beneath the night sky as Vincent explains the stars as he sees them. In the final scene, Mr. Black (played by Bill Nighy) tells the doctor that Van Gogh was “the greatest painter of them all” and “one of the greatest men who ever lived,” while a stunned Van Gogh looks on in tears. Yep. That one is always good for a cry.
  • The ultimate crying fest came in the “M*A*S*H” episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, Amen” when Charles learns that the Chinese musicians that he had been teaching were killed. At that moment, I felt the absolute futility of war as only a civilian can.

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” ~ Rumi 

Another weepy trigger for me is music, and this really depends upon my mood. Anything by Chopin really moves me. Apocalyptica’s “Nothing Else Matters” stops me in my tracks. When I’m crashing, certain pieces of music absolutely slay me, take Annie Lennox’s “Why,” for example. Before the bathtub developed rust holes, I would run myself a hot bath, light the candles, and set up my CD player in the bathroom. Then I would listen to the selected CD and weep until the water became too cold. Very cathartic, in an odd sort of way.

  • “I Hope You Dance,” be Lee Ann Womack. The first time I heard this song, which is about a mother and daughter, Alexis and I were going through a very rough patch. I think she was about 16 or 17.
  • Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” If you’ve never heard this, you are missing out on one of life’s true beautiful mysteries.
  • The swelling soundtrack from Legends of the Fall, which incorporates the same type of violin that was used in Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. I firmly believe that incorporation of beautiful string sections is a deliberate attempt by composers to cut to the heart.
  • Okay, this is a combination of music and a scene in a movie: “Everything You Do” (not with words) in the scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in which Marion is going across the water through the mist. Something about that scene just gives me chills. I know. I’m a sucker for soundtracks, especially by James Horner or Howard Shore, both of whom know how to use a string section for maximum effect.
  • I’m also a sucker for country love songs, especially when Corey isn’t home or if we’ve had an argument. A few that get to me are “Whiskey Lullabye” and “Please Remember Me” do me in, but Garth Brooks’s “The Dance” is one that I listen to to torture myself.
  • Speaking of country songs, “Christmas Shoes” by New Union is one of the saddest songs ever. It’s about a little boy who doesn’t have enough money to buy a pair of shoes for his mother who is in the hospital dying. Can you think of anything sadder to write a song about?
  • One more: the sax solo in Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungle Land.” It is so beautiful and epic that it never fails to make a chill run down my spine.

“One must look for one thing only, to find many.” ~ Cesare Pavese

There are other things, of course. Works of art, like seeing Monet’s massive “Water Lilies” for the first time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Images of animals that are hurt or sad kill me; I thought that if I saw that commercial for the SPCA with Sarah McLachlan one more time during the Christmas season, I was going to jump off a building. I mean some things are just too much. And then there are the words: passages, poetry, drama, memoirs—far too many to begin listing.

Homeless Man with His Best Friend

I was once in an Italian restaurant, and one of the servers sang “Nessum Dorma.” I cried into my Napoleon pastry. I used to drive through the cemetery with David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream” cranked all the way up on the tinny car stereo, weeping at the splendor and the sadness.

I suppose that for me, it’s the beauty behind it all, the beauty behind the music, the beauty behind the visual, the beauty behind the combination of colors and swirls, or sounds and echoes. Or perhaps, it’s knowing that for many of those who create the stunning and the sublime, a little piece of the person creating goes into the finished product. I think of Beethoven and Van Gogh, of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, how they all suffered for their art, how they poured that pain into everything that they created so that the world could have a measure of that beauty, how that breath-taking beauty was birthed from suffering and sorrow.

I don’t know. I say that I don’t cry that much any more, which is true, yet I still can be reduced to weeping when faced with the ineffable, especially in nature, whether it is a breathtaking sunset, or the color of leaves in the fall, or a night sky. Serendipitous instances of kindness and caring, love and tenderness where it seems there should be nothing but sorrow.  I am a walking contradiction, and life is both my passion and my poison.

More later. Peace.

Music by, who else, Apocalyptica, “Nothing Else Matters.” Turn it up.

                   

The Hollow Men V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men V

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“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

“Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.” ~ Oscar Wilde

To meme or not to meme . . . Why not?

  •  Your favorite song: “Amazed,” Lonestar
  •  Your least favorite song: “Baby Got Back,” Sir Mix-a-Lot
  •  A song that makes you happy: “It’s My Life,” Bon Jovi
  •  A song that makes you sad: “I Shall Believe,” Sheryl Crowe
  •  A song that reminds you of someone: “Just Might Make Me Believe,” Sugarland
  •  A song that reminds you of somewhere: “Pirate Looks at 40,” Jimmy Buffett
  •  A song that reminds you of a certain event: “Walking in Memphis,” Marc Cohn or “Bitch,” Meredith Brooks
  •  A song that you know all the words to: “I Will Remember You,” Sarah McLachlan
  •  A song that you can dance to: “Telephone,” Lady GaGa with Beyonce
  •  A song that makes you fall asleep: Soundtrack to The English Patient
  •  A song from your favorite band: “Baba O’Riley,” The Who
  •  A song from a band you hate: “Sweet Home Alabama,” Lynrd Skynrd
  •  A song that is a guilty pleasure: “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” Jimmy Buffett
  •  A song that no one would expect you to love: “Bad Romance,” Lady GaGa
  •  A song that describes you: “Landslide,” Dixie Chicks or “Born to Run,” Bruce Springsteen
  •  A song that you used to love but now hate: “Your Body is a Wonderland,” John Mayer
  •  A song that you hear often on the radio: “Start Me Up,” The Rolling Stones
  •  A song that you wish you heard on the radio: “Kandi,” One Eskimo
  •  A song from your favorite album: “Whiter Shade of Pale,” Annie Lennox, “Medusa”
  •  A song that you listen to when you’re angry: “You Oughta Know,” Alanis Morrisette
  •  A song that you listen to when you’re happy: “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding
  •  A song that you listen to when you’re sad: “Why,” Annie Lennox
  •  A song that you want to play at your wedding: “I Will Love You,” Fisher
  •  A song that you want to play at your funeral: “When the River Meets the Sea,” John Denver or “Amazing Grace” (on bagpipes)
  •  A song that makes you laugh: “I Touch Myself,” Divinyls
  •  A song that you can play on an instrument: “Angie,” The Rolling Stones (on the piano)
  •  A song that you wish you could play: “Someone Like You,” Adele (want to be able to sing)
  •  A song that makes you feel guilty: “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You,” Bryan Adams
  •  A song from your childhood: “Cecilia,” Simon & Garfunkel
  •  Your favorite song at this time last year: “Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum

Now, go listen to some music.

“There comes a moment when you realize that virtually anything is possible—that nothing is too good to be true.” ~ Kobi Yamoda

 

“To dream anything that you want to dream, that is the beauty of the human mind.
To do anything that you want to do, that is the strength of the human will.
To trust yourself, to test your limits, that is the courage to succeed.” ~ Bernard Edmond

Skywriter wrote in to remind me that it was a year ago yesterday that Susan Boyle auditioned for Britain’s Got Talent. The Broadcast of that audition to the public aired on April 11, 2009. On April 16, I wrote a post about Susan Boyle (April 16, 2009 Post on Susan Boyle ).

Susan Boyle's Audition on Britain's Got Talent

I went back and looked at that original audition tape, and it still made me tear up; the timbre of her voice when she sang I” Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables was so rich and pure. Then I listened to her performance on Oprah, and I noticed a difference: It was still the same voice, a bit more refined, not as powerful, which is probably due to the song itself. But I have to wonder what the world has done to Boyle.

I remember the reports after she did not win Britain’s Got Talent. Boyle checked into a psychiatric facility for exhaustion. The media played up the incident, claiming that fame had gone to the singer’s head, that she couldn’t handle the price of fame, ya da ya da ya da . . . It was almost as if Boyle was being paid back for soaring too high too fast.  I remember that the reports seemed too eager to point out her problems, to say that she wouldn’t be able to fulfill her obligation to tour with BGT.

Then a week ago, there was some report about Boyle causing an incident at Heathrow Airport when she began singing with a mop, and wiped a fellow passenger’s shoes with the mop. Depending upon who you listen to, Boyle was acceding to requests from fellow passengers to sing a song; people were singing with her; the passenger with the shoes was being a spoil-sport. Again, ya da ya da ya da.

“You don’t love a girl because of beauty. You love her because she sings a song only you can understand.” ~ L. J. Smith

Let me rewind a bit. When Susan Boyle first stepped on the stage, she received a questionable welcome from the audience and judges. Much was written about appearances being deceiving. In the weeks and months that followed, Boyle had a makeover, new hair color, plucked brows, new clothes, a bit of makeup. Everyone seemed to be a bit more comfortable with the new-improved version of Boyle.

But what about Boyle herself? She literally rocketed to fame. When her vid from BGT was uploaded, it received 2.5 million views in 72 hours. Requests for Boyle began to filter in. The woman herself worked non-stop throughout the duration of the show. Everyone wanted a piece of Boyle. That she fell prey to exhaustion when the show ended is not too surprising. Before her audition, Boyle had spent almost all of her time caring for her ailing mother. The Scottish woman sang at church, not in front of thousands.

But fame is fickle, and it seemed that the press wanted to make more of the downside to Susan at any available opportunity. Hence the reports of her temper tantrums, escapades, whatever. I mean, the poor woman cannot even leave her house to go shopping without getting her picture taken and people commenting on whether she is wearing makeup. Even Boyle felt a need to comment: “When it all first happened I just thought ‘Oooh, my God’. I didn’t know what to think, It was all so sudden. It felt like a giant demolition ball in a way. The impact of it was so hard. It still is very strange to me. But now I have learned how to deal with it all. You have to put on a front. You have an audience to please and so you get on with it. You have to.”

“For now I’m happy the way I am—short and plump. I would not go in for Botox or anything like that. I’m content with the way I look. What’s wrong with looking like Susan Boyle? What’s the matter with that?” ~ Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle Performing on the Wenschen 2009 Show in Munich

Why am I going on about this? Well, it goes back to that dead horse that I beat frequently, you know the one about judging women based on their physical attributes. Boyle, 48, is single, lives with her cat, claimed never to have been kissed, although admitted that she was having a bit of a go at the judges. Rolling of the eyes at this preposterous woman. If Boyle had opened her mouth and sounded like Pee Wee Herman, the audience would have had a tremendous laugh at her expense, and she would have been ushered off the stage.

Instead, the woman who looked like nothing special turned out to be more than extraordinary. And none of us were expecting that. Did we embrace Boyle harder because she did not fit our stereotypes of hardbodied female vocalists à la Madonna? Perhaps. Did we love her more because she was like us, that is, not rich, not famous, not pampered, not full of a sense of entitlement? Probably. Was it her voice or her demeanor that made us want to stand up and cheer and say “Take that, Simon”? A bit of both.

Which is why I now find myself facing a quandary: If I am to be truthful, do I like Boyle less now that she has become more like them? Was she more likable when we focused on the fact that she was the victim of bullying while in school, that her peers taunted her and called her slow?  “I didn’t mix with other kids much. I was frightened of people because of their reactions toward me . . . It’s complicated,” Boyle recounted in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar last year. Did we empathize more when her tales of singing in front of a mirror with a hairbrush dovetailed with things we had done ourselves?

“But aren’t many gardens beautiful because they are imperfect? . . . Aren’t the strange, new flowers that arise by mistake or misadventure as pleasing as the well-tended and planned?”  ~ Libba Bray

Susan Boyle in Harper's Bazaar, photo by Hugh Stewart

Personally, when I listen to the original audition video, I close my eyes. Not because I can’t stand to look at Boyle, but because I always close my eyes (except when I’m driving) when I am listening to beautiful music: I close my eyes to tune out external stimuli so that I can listen as fully as possible.

I have to admit that when I looked at the video from Oprah, I did not close my eyes. I kept getting distracted. I was wondering about her earrings, her dress, her hair, whether she was wearing too much makeup. I have to wonder if this is a female thing or an American thing or a societal thing . . . by that I mean, my compulsion to look at Boyle now that she has become somebody. Did I like her better when she was frumpy? Is it that rooting for the underdog thing?

Susan Boyle may look more acceptable to the industry now that she has had her redo. But the reality is that she will always be that woman from Scotland who said that she wanted to be famous like Elaine Paige of Cats, Evita, and Hair fame. And how cool that on December 13, 2009, Boyle realized her dream by singing a duet with Paige in an ITV special called “The Susan Boyle Story.” Said Boyle of the surprise duet,  “I never thought I would see myself standing on the same stage with such an icon from West End theatre, let alone singing with her as an equal.”

So I listened again to the performance on Oprah, and this time, I closed my eyes. There it was. A bit quieter, but the same beautiful timbre, the same rich voice—goosebumps.

Susan Boyle singing “Who I Was Meant To Be.” Sit back. Close your eyes, and enjoy.

More later. Peace.

No words, just music.

Kingdoms of Rain, by Soulsavers

Are those halos in your hair
Or diamonds shining there
Without a hope, without a prayer
This rain beats down like death
You turn your eyes to better men
Before I go I’ll hang in a cross on nails
I hung on for you in there

Girl lay your shame to rest
Hope lies close to your breast
You stoop to feed the crows
Some scraps of truth already cold
Before I go, I’ll hang in a cross on nails
I hung on for you in there
And every kingdom of rain comes fallin’ down
Cause I loved you somewhat
Cause I loved you somewhat

Would you put halos in your hair
Without a hope without a prayer
With lies close to your breast
You finally lay your shame to rest
Before I go, I’ll hang in a cross on nails
I hung on for you in there
And every kingdom of rain comes fallin’ down
Cause I loved you so long
Cause I loved you so long

Heard on “Truth or Consequences,” episode 2 of “Lie to Me” (Fox). Seemed to bespeak my state of mind. 

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” ~ Plato

U of AK campus October 2009

Another photograph from Janson Jones’s blog: Floridana Alaskiana: University of Alaska Campus, 10/09

“Always watch where you are going. Otherwise, you may step on a piece of the Forest that was left out by mistake.” ~ A. A. Milne 

Warmer today than it has been. From the pictures, it looks like autumn in Alaska is beautiful.

 I spent an hour scrubbing down the kitchen this afternoon, and then another few hours downloading music for my computer playlists. The result is that both my neck and my lower back hurt. How tedious.

I don’t really have much to say today. My mind is filled with music instead of words, which is just fine with me. Sometimes the words running through my head become too heavy with an unexplainable weight, and I wish that I could just tilt my head and let everything sift out, like fine grains of sand. Empty head, start over—kind of an appealing idea.

I received another letter from Social Security today. We’re currently doing this dance in which my long-term disability insurer is passing me along to the Social Security administration (which, if approved, would relieve the insurance carrier, of course). The SS administration is kind of like DMV, no, make that very much like the DMV: bureaucracy, forms, endless forms, requests for mor information, requests for clarification.

My long-time disability insurer assures me that the SS administration denies everyone the first time, and so I should be prepared to file an appeal, which they did on my behalf. Quite frankly, I just don’t care. Or at least I don’t care at this moment. I’m tired of forms. Tired of explaining the same thing over and over to different people. Tired of telling people about my health problems. More tedium.

So for now, tonight anyway, I’m going to ignore the forms, requests for information, etc. I’ll tackle that and the pile of stuff from my closet tomorrow, or at least, some of it, as much as my back allows.

“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” ~ A. A. Milne

That being said, I don’t have much more to add. I think that basically I’m just weary to the bone. Bone-weary. Eyes blurry. Not in much of a hurry to take care of the details. I don’t want to tackle the horrible topic of the high school student being who was beaten to death with railroad ties in Chicago. It’s too heinous.

I cannot even begin to ponder the implications of a healthcare systems that denies care to prior victims of abuse, something that has come to light during this great, supposed debate in which our country’s political leaders are involved. Don’t believe this could happen? Read this article , “Abused Then Denied Care: 8 States Allow Practice,” on MSNBC.

I just had to take a minute to have a play fight with Tillie as she placed herself on the middle of the bed and began thrashing around—a clear signal that a play fight is called for. She is pretty strong, though, so my fights only last a couple of minutes. She is such a bratsky of a dog. One of the best presents that I have ever gotten in my life. She has the ability to make me smile no matter how bad I feel.

Anyway, as I was saying, I don’t have much to contribute in the way of thoughtful prose, which I will take as a sign that I should add a nice video and call it a night. So here is a video created by Janson Jones on the Matanuska Glacier. I hope that you enjoy it.

 

More tomorrow with any luck. Peace.

Grace in Small Things #30

800px-swallowtail_butterfly_2

Swallowtail Butterfly

“Be a gentle friend to trees and they will give you back beauty, cool and fragrant shade, and many birds, singing” ~ Unknown

Well, today will be short and sweet.  Think I may be coming down with something.

1. Beneflu in a bottle. Most people don’t like liquid cold medicines. This stuff is great. When I get on a coughing jag, I just take a big swig right out of the bottle (I make sure it’s the bottle that no one else uses). It goes down warm and is very soothing, and it usually starts to work immediately. Measuring? That’s for sissies.

2. Corey brings me a hot cup of coffee while I’m still in bed almost every day. I like this tradition. I don’t know what I’m going to do when he finally gets a boat.

3. Finding a new song to add to my playlists. The way that I love music, it is always wonderful to find a new artist or a new song by a favorite artist to add to one of my playlists on the computer. Of course I have different playlists. Would my OCD allow anything else: Mellow List, Country List, Bedtime List, and then Extended List, which has enough music on it for 16 hours of play.

black-capped chickadee
Black Capped Chickadee

4. Butterflies. When our Lantana comes into bloom in the spring and summer, we have a veritable butterfly garden in the front yard.  Monarchs. Swallowtails. Painted Ladies.  It’s incredible to be so close to so much beauty.

5. Song birds. We also get a lot of songbirds in our yard, more when we have the feeders hung. My favorites are the cardinals and chickadees. Once in a while we’ll get a hawk in our neighborhood; then all of the smaller birds just disappear until the hawk leaves. It’s amazing how nature works.

More later. Peace.

Music As Muse

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m one of those people who needs music in my life. If I had to choose between television and music, I’d have to choose music. I was a classically-trained pianist for fourteen years, but I never quite had that something that separated me from the pack. Those of you who have taken lessons for years but never felt that you could actually do something with your music understand what I mean. That’s not to say that I didn’t have talent. I could practice, and phrase, and get the technique, but I mostly relied upon my ear. I was a good mimic. I felt the music of artists, true artists deep in my soul, but my own playing never moved me, and so finally, I put it to rest. Occasionally I’ll sit down at the piano and play for a few hours until my wrists and my back rebel, and then I will close the cover on my piano until the next time I am moved to try again, but the times are very few and far between. Being a perfectionist at most things makes playing music hard for me because I know that I am not that good, and so I prefer to listen. All of my children at one time or another have asked me to teach them how to play the piano, as has my husband, and I have assured all of them–quite truthfully–that I would not be a good teacher. I would be impatient, and it is hard to impart to them all of the reasons why because it is something deep in my soul. I do not like to hear music that is not played well. Isn’t that a horrible thing to admit? But it is true, so I know that I would not be a good music teacher, no matter how much I love my family.

Music, in its many forms stirs and moves me. I love classical, rock, country, folk, pop, even reggae. It truly depends on my mood. I remember the first time my husband and I went on a cruise, and we were on a large catamaran bound for a reef to swim with the rays. The crew had on the best mix of music, and I felt so at peace. I had not been on the water on a catamaran in years. I love to be on the water. This water, in the Caribbean, was deep aquamarine and clear; the pontoons hummed as they glided through the water, and this very eclectic mix of music played in the background. I remember sitting on the deck, completely at peace with everything. It was a feeling I had not even been close to in years, but all of the elements came together, and the music was the perfect backdrop.

Some of the best moments in my life have been like that: the music has been the perfect backdrop: a friend’s wedding that I attended while my daughter was fighting for her life in the hospital; it was a brief respite from endless pain, but the music at the wedding was incredibly beautiful. The first time Corey sang, “I Cross My Heart,” to me was so perfect. The first time I heard Nessum Dorma was at a rehearsal dinner of all places and the restaurant had singing waiters; the server was an incredible tenor.

Then there is the music in movies: The first time I watched Platoon and heard Samuel Barber’s Adagio for String’s and wept. The entire soundtrack from The English Patient; I did not want to leave the theater when it was over. The way in which Peter Jackson was savvy enough to realize that music had to be an integral part of The Lord of the Rings. And I cannot watch Robin Hood and hear Everything I Do, I Do it For You, which granted, is better than the movie, and not want someone to love me that way. But the killer for me is the sweeping saga music from Legends of the Fall: the scene in which the horses appear over the ridge and then there is Tristan, the prodigal son returned. Yes, my heart still skips, and it’s not for Brad, it’s for Tristan.

So music for me remains that elusive undefined quantity in life: that forever shape-shifting uplifting and heartbreaking elements that I must have. Nothing is better than when a friend introduces me to a new artist who I can add to my repertoire. My playlist, the background sound that plays when I am writing is not just one artist, not just one type of music. As of this writing my extended playlist is 10 hours long and contains over 100 different artists. That’s a good start. Just don’t ever ask me about When You Wish Upon a Star.