Monday, December 01, 2008

I was born singing

I was born singing. Well, that's probably not true. I was born wrapped in a caul and likely squalling my lungs out, hung upside down, smacked by the doctor, wrapped and tossed and put into a glass crib in a row of glass cribs where my grandfather came to see me and said he'd have known me anywhere.

That was before he took off for a long wandering trip with his dead wife's best friend, over the countryside, into Canada, searching for...something.

But in my singing babyhood I knew nothing of that.

It's not, mind you, that I have a splendid voice, or that I grew up and became an opera singer, or that music is the blood of my heart and the breath of my lungs. Nothing like that. But as I walked past the bars tonight, having walked up town to buy a quart of milk and some roses, necessities of life, I found myself singing an old folk song and remembering how much I loved to sing as a child, and how now and then, alone, walking somewhere, I find myself singing.

It just feels good. It probably sounds god-awful, although since I sing quietly it may look as if I've just lost my mind and am striding through the world mumbling madly.

I recall in college when a dear friend expressed grave concern, having seen me apparently talking to myself with much passion as I walked from class to class. Don't worry, said I, I was probably singing.

She looked concerned still.

As a child in Japan I wandered the woods searching for spring violets, climbing trees, and when alone, singing. I sang all manner of made up songs in those days, full of drama and love and longing. I was 6 years old, 7. Plaintive songs of love modeled on the songs I'd heard when I was much younger and we were in the states and had a radio, such luxury. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
Listen to the Mockingbird. Love Letters in the Sand. Rambling songs with horses in them.

I suspect those songs, that constant stream of songmaking, was what later turned into my poetry. It always has seemed to flow from that same part of my mind or the universe or wherever such things bubble up like spring water.

So, as I say, I was singing about milkwhite doves tonight, and betrayed lasses who should never have listened to the guy at the tavern, and oak trees and such. And I remembered all the parties of my youth, where there was always a person with a guitar and we'd gather around, waiting for the long tuning of the strings, waiting till the first verses poured forth. And we sang. All of us. Seated around some parental living room on a shag carpet, singing old labor songs and old folk songs and some of the new songs of the then just in the wind new folksingers, who were telling us of changing times, and we were ready for that.

And we sang.

It's been a long while. Even then my more musical friends told me I couldn't keep on tune--and it is true, I want to wander and swoop and play when I am singing, walking through the fallen oak leaves, walking the pitbull, thinking on life and loss and possibility.

Once, when I was around, oh, 19, I had a bit of a revelation. I was watching the wind stir some branches against a stucco wall. Up, across, over. There was a rhythm to it, and for a heart splitting moment I thought--but, it's all singing. It's all that rhythm, we are all in this huge and wonderful and terrible song cycle. And it won't end. And it is beautiful.

And it is beautiful.
So, I was born...sort of singing. Maybe. And I hope that when I die, I will at least be humming. Off tune, probably, but with a sure joy in my heart.