Tag Archives: Detroit

Report from June 20, 2016

awakening,Tom's rose

awakening, Tom’s rose

This morning I have been whistling snippets of Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This pleased me because I love that music and because I was happy to note that I was whistling again.  I haven’t whistled much these last years. I think maybe one has to be more lighthearted than I am or have a younger mouth than I do. In any case, this morning’s whistling sounded pretty good to me.

I started whistling when I was very young.  I remember wandering around the backyard in Detroit just whistling. I don’t know how I learned to whistle, but I was proud of my skill. I did love to whistle Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah long before I understood the baggage that went with the song. My dad was a whistler, too.  Sometimes, when we were stuck waiting in the car, Dad would whistle to amuse us children.  He would whistle Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance and other war horses.

When I was in college, I used to whistle as I walked home alone at night from class or the library, but it wasn’t because I was scared.  It was because it was dark, maybe a little damp, and because the music I made sounded beautiful to me. I whistled the love theme from Zeffirelli’s movie Romeo and Juliet, various bits from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suites, “I am a Maid of Constant Sorrow,” and, of course, the Sabre Dance.

For many years, I whistled a bit of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, ditties from medieval Christmas music, and whatever else my ear and mouth could pick up.

Late this morning, it finally dawned on me why I was whistling the Mendelssohn. It was Midsummer yet again, 42 years after Tom and I were married in Salt Lake City. That was long before life became so–I don’t know, less a romantic ideal and more visceral and earnest. We were lucky then with our dear family and friends with us to celebrate and we are lucky now to have each other still, even if the whistling is halting and off-key.

I don’t know if I ever whistled this song, but I surely sang it through all these years:

What I’ll give you since you asked
Is all my time together;
Take the rugged sunny days,
The warm and rocky weather,
Take the roads that I have walked along,
Looking for tomorrow’s time,
Peace of mind.

As my life spills into yours,
Changing with the hours
Filling up the world with time,
Turning time to flowers,
I can show you all the songs
That I never sang to one man before.

We have seen a million stones lying by the water,
You have climbed the hills with me
To the mountain shelter.
Taken off the days, one by one,
Setting them to breathe in the sun.

Take the lilies and the lace
From the days of childhood,
All the willow winding paths
Leading up and outward.
This is what I give
This is what I ask you for;
Nothing more

Judy Collins, “Since You’ve Asked,”  Wildflowers, 1967

In the High Sierras

In the High Sierras

I Wonder As I Wander

Going-to-the-Sun Mountain

Going-to-the-Sun Mountain, Glacier National Park, Montana

I was (still am) the youngest of five children. One of the benefits of this set-up was that I  listened to rock and roll from a tender age. I remember Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls of Fire” from Cooke School in Detroit. I remember Van Morrison from 6th grade in Milford, mostly because I had a friend named G-L-O-R-I-A. One of my older brothers and his friends used to sing rock a cappela on the school bus.  Another brother annoyed me because he always demanded that I answer the question, “Who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp? Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?…Who was that man? I’d like to shake his hand… (Barry Mann, 1961).” I don’t know that man’s name, but this morning I am happy to report a breakthrough on a similar venerable rock and roll question:

I Wonder, wonder who, who ooh ooh who
Who wrote the book of love?
The Monotones, 1958

The answer, I now believe, is Stevie Wonder. Last night, my husband, Tom, our next door neighbors Mark and Ward, and another (roughly) 10,000 people at the John Paul Jones Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Virginia jammed to Stevie’s skill, power, grace, and love until after the midnight hour. I can’t sing, I can’t dance—my hiking boots stuck to the floor in best WASP-of-a-certain-age-style—but still, I danced and sang with Stevie until I was hoarse and tears were in my eyes. I could go on and on, but, well, maybe I will just a little bit: the geniality, the humor, the call and response, the steel guitar, the harmonica, intertwining The Star Spangled Banner and Lift Every Voice and Sing in the funkiest and best version of either I’ve ever heard, and on and on.

I do go on, but here’s the take away: Stevie called on us all to love more and hate less. Yes, he referred to the Paris massacre and the gun violence ongoing in this country. I am going to try to accept his challenge. Note: When I say “called on,” I don’t mean that lovey-dovey ideas were just floating in the ether.  I mean Stevie explicitly gave us our marching orders: He told us that we need to start going forward, not backward.

What I didn’t write: Since September 25, I’ve wanted to write about finally getting on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. I’ve wanted to go there ever since I read the  poet, Vachel Lindsay, sometime in the mid-1960s. Lindsay, more noted for such works as “Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight,” and “General William Booth Enters into Heaven,” also wrote a poem called “Going-to-the-Sun” in a volume of the same name.  I’ve searched for the snippet of poetry that had inflamed my imagination all those years ago. I haven’t been able to unearth it yet, but more on that in another post.

Then I came back to Charlottesville and started sifting through books and memorabilia like I have for the last five years. Do I keep this or that piece of paper or shred of cloth? What do I do with the remaining mountains of teaching materials?

A piece of paper

A piece of paper

Then, last night with Stevie, I had to think, yet again, of the innocents and their blood–in this country and around the world–and of the refugees.

Likely I will write some more about poets and rock and roll, my travels, and my memories. Not today, though. Stevie brought it all home for me last night. I know now which sun I am really traveling to:

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us,
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” James Weldon Johnson (poem to music, 1900)

I’m Starting Now: I love you.