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.


Blogger Lori Witzel said...


I wondered where that music was coming from...

5:15 AM, December 03, 2008  
Blogger Gleno said...

What a truly wonderful post. I loved your line that spoke of "betrayed women" and "oak trees."

I love old folk songs.

Keep writing. :-)

6:49 AM, December 09, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I cant sing a whit. Nor can I play an instrument, but I love to 'play' on a piano, just make noise and patterns of noise with the keys. It must sound like chaos to others, but I love it. My gr. gr. aunt taught piano, so I must have a gene in me somewhere that yearns to play.

6:45 PM, December 09, 2008  
Blogger am said...

"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."

I love this post and keep coming back to read it since you posted it on December 1. In the last week of RTN's life, I sang to him in the ICU even though there are only a few songs where I can sing all the notes.

"Speed bonny boat like a bird on the wing . . . "

"How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man? . . . "

"They are reaching out for love and they will reach that way forever . . . "

1:10 PM, December 11, 2008  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

Out of tune is the best. That means you sing because it is a part of you, not because it simply sounds pretty. That has another sort of beauty; the kind that brings happiness, balance, and to some extent, sanity. =)

5:54 PM, December 27, 2008  
Anonymous Dr O2 said...

tune is for pros but singing is for anyone with flowing feelings. Noone can limit others from singing their hearts out. For me comes in the car mostly when driving with the music on, I sing along and sometimes very animated and loud that gets others looking! well who cares I feel great ;-)
Happy nu year my dearest Jarvenpa. I am glad u r doin well :-) and your son well he is truly right abt that! :-) I wish u a gr8 year ahead.

10:46 PM, January 03, 2009  
Anonymous marly said...

I'll bet he would've known this post anywhere, too--sounds precisely like you.

And I have just joined a choir. Because my daughter, who plays piano and sings in the senior school choir, wouldn't join without me. I only read music in the most primitive way, so we shall see. Perhaps I shall become better at it!

10:11 AM, January 15, 2009  

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