Beginning With Music
The miracle of sound and song
Rain, New Year's Eve by Maggie Smith The rain is a broken piano, playing the same note over and over. My five-year-old said that. Already she knows loving the world means loving the wobbles you can't shim, the creaks you can't oil silent—the jerry-rigged parts, MacGyvered with twine and chewing gum. Let me love the cold rain's plinking. Let me love the world the way I love my young son, not only when he cups my face in his sticky hands, but when, roughhousing, he accidentally splits my lip. Let me love the world like a mother. Let me be tender when it lets me down. Let me listen to the rain's one note and hear a beginner's song.
Happy New Year, dear friends. I am slowly easing into this year. It’s a tradition I’ve realized is essential for my nervous system and it aligns with the nature of life. We just passed the darkest morning of the year, with the first week of January bringing the latest sunrise, and daylight is slowly increasing so that by middle of this month, we’ll see about two minutes more light each day. By March, this jumps to 3 minutes per day. It all reminds me that for now, I can slowly increase my energy, my momentum for my work, so that I’m not moving from hibernation straight into full throttle, spring energy living.
So, for now, I’m starting in part where I last left off—with a desire for wonder, for joy, for an appreciation and an investment in my life, humans, and community just as they are. I’ve received a much needed creative boost from The Isolation Journals (an excellent Substack publication I recommend) week long journal prompt challenge (journal prompts almost always lead me somewhere I might not get on my own). And what I’ve been particularly drawn to as this year begins, are the poets and music that have propelled me into the kind of wonder, curiosity, gratitude, and deep sense of life’s fullness that I long for.
I take in a lot of information a lot of the time. I love to read, I enjoy podcasts, and so I’m almost always ingesting info. This is all good in its time, but sometimes more than more info, I just need to rest in wonder the way that poetry and music allow me space to do. So, I let myself get called into some really beautiful music this week and some perfect New Year poetry. And as I did, I felt myself letting go of a desire to make sense of life and it’s nonsensical sadness and joy, needing to agenda and plan the magic out of this year, and settled instead into the experience of, the richness of, sound.
For this slow start, I’ve shared first the marvelous poem by Maggie Smith. Below you’ll find the songs played by Jon Batiste and Willie Nelson that led me into joyful wonder and tearful remembrances (both songs were shared by Isolation Journal writer Suleika Jaouad), and a song by Elton John that feels like my current anthem to my beloved humans. And finally, the poem that came out of my experience of this music and poetry.
If, as Don Mclean asked, and I believe the answer is yes, “can music save your mortal soul,” then maybe a little wonder over music could be a practice you allow yourself in this week of slow starting. Instead of rushing quite yet, maybe you linger over some magestic sounds, or make a sonic tribute to your last year or to how you’re starting this one. I’ve always loved the idea of walking around to my own soundtrack like a woman in a romantic comedy. Maybe you choose one of these songs I’ve included, or perhaps there are some very poignant ones of your own that are calling to be settled into and really heard. Where does it all lead you, friends?
Friends with paid subscription, continue past the music and poetry to find an intro to the year breath-centered yoga practice. Having just ebbed out of the time of gifting others, I am thinking about the gifts of the yoga practice, our breath connection being one of the most essential gifts of all. This first practice of the year is intended to start to connect your body’s movement and your breath. We’ll continue this through the month ahead.
Holy Wonder: A Beginner's Song And the earth spins onward, yet this musical poetry stops me a moment. It's a wonder, the way the imperfect world is made whole and holy. Each note holds some vulnerable place in love, the margins brought into the center. For I love all of the imperfect sweetness so much-- glorious flesh and body, earth and light and dark, all of it here, and gone too soon. The parts that can't be oiled into less creaking or shimmed to steadiness. The parts that disappoint and wound thoughtlessly. I surely do not understand any of it a bit. But I'll sing it anyway, an imperfect song of my own, one of life and of death made inseperably whole. Let my song be of tenderness. Let me love every note-- when I'm let down and when softeness permeates. Let me be tender to it all. Let me be the kind of mother for it all that can welcome it into my body, fierce and open, loving it into wholeness, all the broken places, the imperfect, disappointing, total let down parts. Let me hear the song as a beginner's melody, not sounding quite right, but still a song. I hear it sing to me, be tender with this world, the one inside your imperfect home and the one outside of it. Let it plunk and creak and sometimes break you. But let it play.