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  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Someday, I want to write about the soundtrack of our lives. You know what I am talking about. It's the music that plays in your head in those grand, sweet moments of life. It's the pluck and strum of your heart strings in a quiet moment of beauty. It's the musical score of your world.

I have been thinking about this today as I sit in the foyer of Evergreen Hospital listening to Judy play piano. Judy is a senior who contributes to the healing of the universe by playing a grand piano at this hospital as patients and family members go about their business. Because she knows that my husband and I are folk musicians, she has jettisoned her usual set list of classical pieces for folk music arranged for piano. The grand two story alcove pulls the notes skyward as a steady parade of people pass by.

Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing' " floats through the air, and as the lyrics swirl in my head, couples of every size, shape and color stroll past all carrying plastic, life- sized babies. The first couple who passed by signaled an appointment perhaps, a discussion of insights gained while toting a lifelike but plastic nonetheless baby. But soon this steady stream of couples and their dolls parading by make it apparent that this is an appointment of much greater design. Stretchy shirts are pulled over swollen bellies while husbands cling to lifeless dolls, all in preparation for this upcoming event.

They seem so serene, so quietly proud as they walk together, and I think to myself, “Yes, the times they ARE a-changing," in ways that these young couples cannot begin to fathom. Only we who have walked this road before can know the depth of what awaits them in the years to come. They will enter this brave new life blissfully ignorant and totally convinced that they are ready for what lies ahead.

But then, when are any of us ever ready for what lies ahead? If we could see through that dark glass dimly would we run to embrace the future or throw our hands up in despair? Would we dig into some well of courage deep within ourselves or shrink into our own insecurities and fears and never step into the challenges ahead?

Perhaps that is the beauty of the future being revealed in infinitesimally small steps, so as to protect us from our own weakness of spirit.

But through that dark glass, grand moments of beauty await us also in the small ordinariness of this life. Biking to work, I have passed a wetlands bathed in early morning light as a meadowlark warbled and my hearts' voice burst into song. " great Thou art.. how great Thou art..." A brook warbles over rocks, and a symphony plays Copeland's" Appalachian Spring, and I have realized anew that it IS a gift to be simple. A grandchild's face explodes into a smile, and in the light of that gaze, the room and my aching heart are bathed in a chorus of alleluias. The soundtrack of the foyer swells and with it, the landscape of this ever changing canvas. A voice on the intercom announces a life threatening emergency. I see a wheelchair being pushed... an elderly man shuffles passed us, nurses, doctors...a visible river of humanity.

Someone is dying here today; someone is being born; someone is recovering and someone is losing hope.

My mind races with questions, the kinds of questions one wrestles with in the autumn of our lives. The kinds of questions that draw near to you when sitting in a hospital foyer watching life literally pass you by. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Have I overlooked some work I have been put here to do?

In the swirl of questions, I look over at sweet Judy. She is mouthing the words to the folk tune her hands create as the notes circle in the air. I can read her lips as Dylan speaks to the unspoken questions of my heart. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind...

the answer

is blowing in the wind.

1968. Fort Ord, California. The start of it all…

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

Eleven years ago, I started a blog by this title. I thought it might be fun to go back and revisit what started the journey of processing life through writing. This was my first ever written, a work that continues today in Epiloger.

My friend, singer-songwriter Jimmy Yessian, now gone too soon, had a song called “Someday” that examined all of the reasons we give ourselves to not do that “thing” that should be a priority, whatever that thing is. I was reminded of that yesterday when a visiting pastor spoke on embracing life’s difficulties. He stated that most of us live by what I call, “If/Then” rules. If I get skinnier/fatter/taller/ thinner/ younger/older (to use his examples) then I can do this “thing” that I should be doing.

Of course, his examples of what we should be doing were far more spiritual than mine, but I think the rule applies, nonetheless. For I believe that most of us are living in that “cause/effect” world, which is very logical, by the way. If I DO this thing, then I will get some reward, like the mice in a cage who learn to press a lever and get food. The problem is, most of us are reaching for a lever that is placed beyond our reach. Or we are reaching for a lever that doesn’t exist. Or we are reaching for a lever that everyone around us tells us is there and crucial to a joyful life except that we are wired to never see it.

What if, and here’s that cause/effect thing again, what if we simply reversed the variables? What if we simply put the goal first and the steps second ? It might look something like this: If I go to Hawaii, then I will get skinnier. If I start a program to help the food banks, then I will find a way to get the money to fund it. If I… then… you get the point.

I was reminded of this principle when my husband and I went to see a financial advisor, which, if you knew us, would cause you to explode into hysterical laughter. Our total interest earned on investments last year was about $2.21. That should give you some idea of what incredible savers we are. As we were looking at a pitiful list of assets, the advisor asked why, after 25 years, we owed so much money on our home.

Feeling a bit like a guilty school aged child, I explained as rationally as I could that we refinanced the house throughout the years to fund important business in our family. “Like what?” he asked suspiciously. So again I explained, in as rational a voice as I could, that our daughters needed college educations, and there were two weddings, and then we had to take the whole family to Hawaii.

I cannot begin to describe the look of distain on his face or the tone in his voice when he addressed us. It was, in his opinion, a terrible mistake to have wasted our money that way. In his world, if you refinanced your house for frivolous reasons, then you would have no money on which to retire (and we are, by the way, not spring chickens).

But here’s what it looked like in the reverse: Because we refinanced our house and took my in-laws and my mother to Hawaii, we now have memories of a trip that we will take to our grave. We have stamped into our minds my dear mother-in-law rising exhausted each morning for just one more snorkeling trip. We have her picture in our minds as she flopped around on a hard seat on the back of a speeding raft over what seemed to be mountainous waves announcing, “I have always wanted to do this!” We have memories of her husband, not up to activity, sitting on the porch drinking coffee and doing crosswords as he waved us off each morning to our adventures. And we have the knowledge that had we not refinanced the house, none of those memories would be there, for his father died a few months later.

So today was another someday for me. Someday when I have time, I will start a blog. Inspired by a fellow writer, Ty, I went to set one up and found out I had done so over a year ago, but never written the first word. Today, I switched the formula. If I start the blog, then I will have time to write.

Someday is today.

  • Writer's pictureChar Seawell

During the night, I was awakened, as I often am, by dream images. Somewhere in the reaches of my brain, I think I try to work out the proverbial “meaning of life“in these pre-dawn interruptions. At the forefront was a memory of Shostakovich that would not let me go.

Shostakovich holds a special place in my heart after first being introduced to his symphonies in orchestra. After years of the regularity of Souza marches in fall band and beautiful, soulful but predictable symphonic pieces the rest of the year, one day our orchestra tackled our first Shostakovich piece.

There were collective groans as we struggled through the cacophony and odd rhythms of his work. It was difficult and unsettling and, honestly, not very appealing to my young ears. And yet I loved it. I loved its wildness and unpredictability.

Fast forward to playing bass in a Colorado country rock band where most of my nights were spent inside a drummer’s country two step beat. The songs had a cadence designed to get your feet moving, and the dancers swirled and dipped as one entity around the dance floor. The songs were in happy keys that invited you to the party and encouraged you to ask for one more drink. The music was rhythmic and predictable.

As I think back on those extremes, I have always felt like the world around me is engaged in a continuous two step.

And I feel like I live in the middle of a Shostakovich symphony.

Nothing rests easy on the ears with Shostakovich. No matter how carefully anyone listens, anticipating where the next chord will be is impossible because the chord structures often seem strident and unfamiliar. The time signatures seem arbitrary and capricious. The keys fluctuate like the tides though without predictability. It is hard to breathe in the middle of that cacophony.

And yet, it is where I am most drawn and most comfortable.

Chaos, uncertainty, discomfort, brokenness, jagged edges, irregularity, unpredictability… peace…home. Those words to not seem to go together very well. And yet, like the kaleidoscopes of our youth, all those irregular pieces with their random riot of color trapped within a small lens does create an odd beauty.

This world IS like that Shostakovich symphony these days, and maybe since the dawn of man. All these jagged pieces…all this brokenness, all these strident notes fighting for attention.

But here’s the deal. Those notes are still confined to a musical staff. No matter how chaotic they may sound to me, or anyone for that matter, there is a time signature that determines its pace, and sharps and flats that dictate its direction.

Perhaps the chaos and uncertainty hold no sway anymore because in this desert landscape I have become trained to see the Staff that grounds the notes. Regardless of the capriciousness of human behavior, in the early dawn, the sunrise that takes my breath away becomes the clef, and the awakening birds become the notes that fill the measures at the direction of the ultimate Composer. I am not needed in the creation of this symphony. I am simply along for the ride.

And this brings great freedom.

So the notes swirl and change, moments come and go, humans do what humans do, and there are no surprises. The changing patterns, like those in a kaleidoscope, are beautiful but transitory.

,And Shostakovich is only one of thousands of lenses through which to view the world.

Today, and every day, I just watch from the outside of the chaos as the dark disappears and new light announces itself over the shadows of the mountains. No matter what this day will hold, I listen for the direction of the Composer as the new score is written in this moment.

And I am at peace,

and I am at home.

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