A Moment of Music

My heart is aching for music. I’m in the mountains with only two of my children, just the three of us, and I’ve been awake for hours, alone. This never happens at home, of course. It is a time to cherish, a time to pay attention to what I want, just me, and one thing I like is music. So I’m enjoying music.

How am I doing that? I’m working on income taxes. (I just can’t ever get them done early, so I brought along boxes of papers on vacation. One small bag of clothes and four milk crates of files – not your usual luggage for a retreat, but I am usually unusual.) So here I sit, going through online bank records, making lists of deductions, and listening to music. My friend Mathai has a new single, so I started with her song from iTunes, then I went to her station on my Pandora site. After a while I wanted instrumental so I switched to my Bach station on Pandora.

Does music ever paralyze you? Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t comfortably listen to music all the time as background accompaniment to life. Music speaks to me, and I consider it rude to interrupt when someone is speaking. Especially if the music has lyrics, I have trouble talking or reading or thinking with it on. A big chunk of my brain pays attention to words, and I find myself listening to a lyric, even a familiar one, instead of listening to the people in the room. That, for me, is also rude. People, especially people who are present with me, are more important than words. So I generally don’t turn on the radio or Pandora or a CD unless I’m alone. I habitually turn off those things when someone comes into a room with me.

I don’t think music is supposed to isolate me, though. I love listening to music with someone or a whole room full of someones. I think music engenders community because it communicates in a way words alone cannot. Music speaks to our spirits and reminds them to dance. I guess part of the reason I turn off music when someone enters is because I’m a self-conscious dancer. I’m not as free and confident as I’d like to be, so I don’t dance a lot in company. I don’t let my spirit dance in company, either, unless the company is all dancing together. Dancing feels . . . intimate . . . to me, even in public, so I’m careful about who knows I’m dancing.

With those dearest to my heart, I am able to dance freely, and for them I do not always turn off the music. With them, I can be on vacation any time – I can dance and sing and play and celebrate the joy of life, even in tiny moments of connection. It’s those moments that help me keep my balance in a world that does not seem to allow much dancing. They’re my little secret, those smiles and giggles and wiggles that happen in the midst of all the Very Serious Work of Life.

Today, the Very Serious Work is income tax preparation, but still I am dancing. And the music did grab me and paralyze me once – that’s why I’m writing, to think it through, to figure it out. I turned to look out the picture window across the valley. I stood as if I could see the mountain opposite more clearly if my head were a foot and a half higher. Something unfamiliar was playing on Pandora, piano, reflective, probably Romantic. I couldn’t ignore it. It pulled me in to the sweet sadness of the melody, the hopeful longing of the tune. It became a story and I couldn’t move my eyes from the screen. I kept gazing at the mountains just far enough away to be untouchable. I unconsciously pressed hands to the glass as if joining a partner, as if that would bring me closer to the peak, where a house is perched, where the view of two valleys must be magnificent. I gasped at the imagining of such a sight. I don’t know how long I stood – only a couple of minutes, maybe just a few seconds – but it was like dream time, when no time passes and everything is in the present, in the experience, in the moment.

The moment passed. Somehow I woke; I guess the music changed. I relaxed from my dancing posture and turned to find everything unchanged. The papers are still here, with the columns of numbers. The bank website is still up. The clock in the kitchen is still ticking. The children are still asleep. No changes but one.

My heart is aching for music. I started by going to music to keep me company. I gave in to the attraction, paid attention to it more and more, and now I want to do nothing else. I want to fill my head and heart and spirit with all the music I can find. I want to feel the life that only music can explain. I want to be one with the music, to dance its truth with no thought of ever stopping.

I guess I’ll have to settle for Pandora and income taxes.

I sure am glad for those secret moments, though.

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