Musical notes


It's a classic April day, wet and cold and gray. I turn up the radio as if the beat can drive out the chill and the gloom. I'm humming along, and I realize the tune is "Call Me Maybe", a song that went down in infamy and parody. But I am smiling, and there are tears forming, because this song means Rosy spinning in circles, singing every word into her hairbrush microphone, a sunny summer when her very best friend came to live with us. It means the smell of coconut oil, the glisten of children's skin in the long shadows of evening, crickets singing us through the night.

Music is woven into my very soul. I wonder sometimes if it is my framework, my foundation. Songs become part of memories, and I am used to the saudade that comes with theme songs of friendships, lovers, family. Not until today did I realize that entwined with the faces and places of my 35 years are strands of specific times, vibrant, almost piercing memories of my children's paths to adulthood. It is beyond bittersweet, that unbearable ache that accompanies the joy of our most precious memories. Longing because we wish we were in that time now, in this moment. Sadness that it was so beautiful and now it's over. Ecstasy - a little taste, at least - because you experienced it.


I am learning to walk something called the "middle path". I can hold a burning coal of pain now in one hand, and a bouquet of happiness in the other. My past has been very black and white: people, activities, possessions, goals, hopes and dreams, inner longings and outward behavior - they were all neatly divided into two piles, good and evil. As my eyes adjust to the many shades of gray that is life in this beautiful, tragic existence, I slowly gain a tolerance for ambiguity. I can rest even if I don't have something figured out. I've learned to put deep questions on a shelf in my head when life needs to be lived instead of figured out.

My everyday playlist includes a song from every decade, every genre: because music is paired with memories, not taste. Local Bon Iver is tucked next to Pearl Jam; Chopin's Raindrop prelude is followed by Regina Spektor...
Rascal Flatts for a pity party...
the Weepies for rainy days...
Jewel for my first girlfriend...
the Allman Brothers and Jackson Browne because of my papa...
Bonnie Raitt for the ups and downs of marriage...
Coldplay for a year my best friend spent in Europe...
Linkin Park brings back the dance of snowboarding.
Simon and Garfunkel for the almost suicides...
Rufus Wainwright for babies and children tended on death beds...
Alicia Keys and Nelly Furtado for the summer my first baby girl was born.

Follow this link, click full-screen and turn your speakers up.