The world is a looking glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion.
-- William Makepeace Thackeray

Aug 22, 2010

Moved by Music

The first overwhelming experience I had with music that moved me to tears, tears I couldn’t stop, try as I might, was when I went to a Powwow in the Netherlands. It was held in a gym, a most unnatural place to hold a powwow! I had never been to one and didn’t even actually know what it was. I sat in anticipation and then all the lights went out except one. Then the dancers came out but it wasn’t until the drums started beating that I felt my belly resonate with the drums and a most unspeakable sorrow was released. I cried and couldn’t stop. I was so thankful it was dark!

the dancers enter
in a flurry of colors
my heart breaks
as the drums beat
the rhythm of old sorrow

Years later I went to a powwow in Oregon and had the same reaction, albeit not so powerful as the first time. I walked away to compose myself, after all, it was broad daylight.

Just recently I went to a concert of ‘The daughters of Africa’ and had the same reaction. This time it was not a feeling of sorrow that was unleashed but one of profound joy and a full awareness of that which unites us.

I have never had this with classical music. I am no lover of classical music and find this a curious phenomenon. It’s not due to the lack of exposure to it. My father loved it, my ex loved it. My significant other sings in a choir that sings oratorios and I dutifully attend the concerts. It’s not that I don’t appreciate it but it just doesn’t move me. During a concert I jealously look at the enraptured faces and wonder what it is that I seem to be missing. When I admit to classical music lovers that it does nothing for me, most of them either look at me with pity or like I come from another planet, which I find rather amusing. If I’m in a particularly rebellious mood I even tell them I like country and folk music.

Jun 24, 2009

Old Photographs, Flower Power and Melanie

Yesterday I spent my day scanning old photographs. When my grandmother died I was given one of her albums. It was so moving to see my parents so much younger than I am today.

During the course of the day I was searching for something on the internet and I stumbled upon a website for downloading MP3’s and decided to look and see if I could find some music that was played during the time of the pictures that I was scanning. Much to my delight I found some songs of Connie Frances and when I heard them I could sing along even though it has been ages since I had heard her sing.

My trip down memory lane then brought me to the sixties – those exciting years when the air was pregnant with change. Being too young to participate I could only observe, which was quite frustrating because I wanted to be a part of it all, I wanted to wear flowers in my hair, wear hippy clothes and demonstrate against the Vietnam war, all of which my parents heartily disapproved. I think it was when I was about thirteen or fourteen (1966 or thereabouts) that we went on a trip down to Florida to visit some friends. We took a break at a gas station in Georgia and I noticed there was a sign that said ‘We do not serve hippies’ (or something to that effect). When an old car full of hippies pulled in, the owner ran out with a shotgun and started yelling at the hippies. They frantically tried to start their car but they couldn’t get it started and the gas station owner kept yelling and pointing his shotgun at them. My brother and I had been sitting in the front seat of the car while my parents were resting. I was terrified and my first instinct was to protect my younger brother so I yelled ‘duck’ and we both ducked down. It was a great relief when the hippies finally got their car started and pulled off without a shot being fired. Later the gas station owner told my father that hippies had the habit of filling their tank full of gas and then taking off without paying. I think it was then that I realized being a hippie was not all love, peace and flowers.

The music was great in those years and I was particularly fond of Melanie’s songs. They had just the right amount of irony and sometimes humor without being overly moralistic. So I was delighted to find her songs on the MP3 sight I had found and downloaded my favorites.

Jun 22, 2009

Candy is Dandy: On Ogden Nash and Ironing

A few years back I was in the American Bookstore in Amsterdam and in the Poetry department I saw the book ‘Candy is Dandy, The Best of Ogden Nash’. I remember not having to hesitate and buying it before anyone else could get their hands on it. All the way home fits of laughter would escape from my mouth, much to the annoyance of the other passengers in the train. I don’t recall when I read him for the first time but I assume it was during my teens, when I was able to understand the word puns and the irony of his writing.

I am not much of a housekeeper. As a matter of fact, I’d rather not do any housekeeping at all and if it weren’t for the fact that I was born a female, I would have been mowing the lawn for my parents once a week instead of ironing three baskets full of family laundry each Saturday. My mother wasn’t much of a housekeeper either so it came in pretty handy having her oldest daughter to help her out. Needless to say, I developed an enormous dislike for ironing.

Over the years I also developed a strategy with respect to ironing that consists of folding the laundry and putting it where it belongs without ironing. Of course this is unhandy because things have to be ironed before wearing them. Getting dressed in the morning usually meant ironing a few clothes if I wanted to look halfway decent. Although I am a morning person, this ironing-before-getting-dressed routine started to irritate me so I decided to do something about it, and this is where Ogden Nash comes in.

The plan is simple. Each day iron 5 garments (5 is about all I can handle without getting terribly grouchy) and then reward myself with reading one (or more) of Ogden Nash's poems to lift my spirits.

Everybody Tells Me Everything
by Ogden Nash
I find it very difficult to enthuse
Over the current news.
Just when you think that at least the outlook is so black that it can grow no blacker, it worsens,
And that is why I do not like the news, because there has never been an era when so many things were going so right for so many of the wrong persons.

The Firefly
by Ogden Nash
The firefly's flame Is something for which science has no name
I can think of nothing eerier
Than flying around with an unidentified glow on a
person's posteerier.

More of his poems can be found here

Jun 21, 2009

What Dr. Seuss brought about

'You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know.
And you are the one who'll decide where you'll go.
Oh the places you'll go.'

-- Dr Seuss

Sometimes we are reminded of things that are often buried in some vague part of our memory by something that triggers that specific memory. The trigger could be anything, a smell, a song, a picture, an occurrence. Last week while I was looking for a quote to accompany one of my pictures I stumbled upon the books of Dr. Seuss and I was instantly a child again, eagerly awaiting the next book. When the book arrived I remembered the excitement and thrill of reading it, how it often made me laugh and how disappointed I was when I had finished it – I would have to wait for the next book to arrive.

Reliving this memory brought me to ask my sister-in-law Linda if she could find some of his books so I could read them again. And, being the wonderful person she is, she responded that she had found ten of his books that she would give to my son to take home for me. Linda, thank you so much!

I am curious as to how I will experience them at the age I am now. What I will discover about them looking with adult eyes.

This experience has also made me look into what had made me happy as a child, in a time when parents expected you to entertain yourself because they were working hard to make ends meet, when there were no computers and not much TV, when we made our own toys from things we found because there was no money to buy new toys, when we played outside all summer long.

Amazingly (or perhaps not so amazing) I found the things that gave me joy as a child still give me joy – discovering a new path in the woods, reading a new book, creating something beautiful, seeing people laugh. Perhaps I am not so far removed from that child as I thought :-).