The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Dragons and Crumbs September 28, 2014

Yesterday the Waldorf School held its annual Michaelmus celebration at the local state park. The day was warm and sunny, and the children all had a wonderful time. (See last year’s post for more on the story behind the seasonal celebration.) With a large-scale enactment of Saint Michael (pronounced Mike ay El) slaying a dragon put on by the twelfth grade, a morning-long quest in the woods for the children in the Lower School led by the eighth grade, hearty autumnal stew for lunch followed by a round of games in the field, the day was full and satisfying for all. In the morning, while the kids were hiking about in the surrounding forest completing their challenges, the eleventh graders helped prepare vegetables while a few members of the faculty worked in the shelter at portable stoves to cook the soup. Elihu was in such high spirits afterward, that he and three of his happy classmates talked me into an impromptu after-school gathering at our house, where in spite of the incredibly beautiful weather, they preferred to spend the better part of their time playing rounds of Pokemon. They’d had such a good day of outdoor activity, I easily acquiesced. It made my heart so happy to see them having such fun together. My son went to bed that night a very contented boy.

Earlier in the week we’d had a few small adventures; catching a beautifully colored turtle by the local pond, relocating a few of our frogs to a safer wintering spot, getting some trees to plant in front of the new construction house at the end of the driveway plus other various and sundry pleasantries that come with an unscheduled life in the country. Like finding odd-looking, misshapen eggs in the nesting boxes, or dining on squash that emerged from our compost pile, or taking a walk in the woods to discover a trash pile from well over a half century ago languishing in the leaves, filled with the bulbous forms of antique car parts and other, more mysterious unidentified objects rusting away… And still more surprises – finding a praying mantis, getting to rumble down the road in a neighbor’s borrowed truck, learning how to play a chromatic pattern on the piano complete with a left hand part and visiting with two grandmas in one day.

When Elihu was five, we stumbled upon the Rosh Hashanah celebration taking place in Saratoga’s city park, and since then we’ve made it an annual part of our own family tradition. We’re not Jewish, but we love the idea of tashlich. It’s the act of casting the crumbs from one’s pockets into living, moving water, that the sins and transgressions they represent be washed away, giving one a chance to start the new year with a fresh, clean slate. This is personal business, as those casting the crumbs are mindful of what those pieces represent, and they do so with somber introspection. (And after the casting they then read from the book of the prophet Micha about repentance. Micha? Michaeal? Hmm…) In the Jewish tradition, it is G-d who sits in judgement of these sins, and who at week’s end – Yom Kippur – will offer forgiveness as He sees fit. Elihu and I like to believe that all people are always forgiven, as we would always endeavor to forgive others (successful or not, at least it’s our goal!). Furthermore, I do not believe in a Creator that condemns or forgives; a parent loves her children no matter what they do, good, bad – or even very bad. (I realize some of you may well feel differently.)

It’s a lovely practice to cast away ones sins and recommit to living in the world with a renewed sense of love and respect. And Fall feels a perfect time for this sort of inventorying of the self. After having shed the things that no longer serve us, be they leaves or sins, we can now turn inward and give our full attention to the big changes ahead.

The slaying of dragons, the falling of leaves and the casting of crumbs tells us that fall is now fully underway.

IMG_4313The colors are here.

IMG_4259Early in the morning the teams assemble for their treks in the woods.

IMG_4284Preparations are being made…

IMG_4281Lots of soup…

IMG_4303…for lots of kids.

IMG_4290It takes a lot of help…

IMG_4326…and a little decoration, too.

IMG_3937The dragon has rehearsed its part…

IMG_4271…which is now acted out on the enormous playing field.

IMG_4337My foley station – sound effects for a rural village (cows, sheep, cowbells and birds) plus the battle and slaying of a mighty dragon (timpani and cymbals) and finally a happy recessional (tambourine with voices). Lots of fun to do this little bit.

IMG_4386Soup’s on! The tenth graders help serve the younger kids.

IMG_4347Elihu and pal Roger.

IMG_4353The teams added a colored band to their staff for each challenge they met.

IMG_4391Somehow, there was enough for everyone. No one left hungry.

IMG_4398Sweet Sadie.

IMG_4407Our friend Cally, a talented young horsewoman and singer, too.

IMG_4441Time for games!

IMG_4452The girls, adjusting their pony tails in unison as they head back to the bus.

IMG_4474Driving back to school on the Spa State Park’s iconic Avenue of the Pines.

IMG_4504And after school, a pickup game of Pokemon. Perfect!

IMG_4520Sweet little eggs from our youngest hens.

IMG_4245I love my mod duvet cover. Got it a while ago, but happily just rediscovered it. It refreshes the spirit to have something new around, doesn’t it?

IMG_4228Something else that refreshes my spirit: trees to provide a natural barrier between us and the new house at the end of our driveway.

IMG_4106And this is how we got em there… thanks to Stephanie and Zac for lending us their truck. Ah, the feel of a diesel!

IMG_4068 The praying mantis we found on the new trees.

IMG_2937This guy’s lived in our plastic pond all summer, now we need to move him to the muddy creek bank where he can hunker down for winter.

IMG_4032And the beautiful Eastern Red Belly turtle I found trying to cross the road. Apparently they’re not terribly common, so we were really lucky to have seen her up close. Look at those striking markings! And the red was so very vibrant. Her eyes had lines that ran right through them – altogether a stunning creature.

IMG_4040Saying goodbye.

In an instant, the turtle slips away into the pond.

IMG_4165We like to visit this lovely pond in Congress Park on Rosh Hashanah.

IMG_4182I don’t know why, but I like to know there’s a local Orthodox Jewish community here in Saratoga. Maybe it’s nostalgia for my old home near West Rogers Park in Chicago.

IMG_4192While some cast crumbs for their sins, some cast em more for the ducks. !

IMG_4202This one is pretty young…

IMG_4207She’ll need to migrate soon – but how can she with these tiny pin feathers? Hurry up and grow!

IMG_4220Elihu meets Esther.

IMG_4216And shares his duck with her.

IMG_4243Now we’re enjoying an evening at home with the emerging colors of fall outside our window.

IMG_4061Some lovely hydrangeas I picked from the cemetery on the hill.

IMG_4126The maple’s beginning to glow… see how the ripples in the window tint look almost like rain…

I love the shifting moods that the changing colors create. There’s a melancholic feeling in the air, and yet there’s also a bright little spark of hope for what lies on the other side. For now we’ll savor the scented air and enjoy listening to the final evening choruses of crickets before the world slows down to its long, cold sleep.

 

January’s End February 1, 2014

So is this what dad had in mind when he mused “when beautiful January comes….”? I mean, really? I can’t imagine he meant to imply anything so specific as the tumultuous events of the past few weeks, of course, but I wonder if he might not have had a clue – on some level – that things were about to change. That the course of events in my life and at the Studio were about to shift and gain momentum in a slightly new and refreshed direction. That things would soon be very different. Personally, I’m not good with change, or ‘different’; things were just fine as they were, thank you. (At least they weren’t scary.) A major event was needed, apparently, to get my full attention and suggest we might try looking at things in a new way. Ok already. Got it.  Now I’m listening….

I haven’t had the time to visit the Studio again since my heart-sickening discovery the other day. I need to take photos, I need to remove items, to spend more time truly assessing the damage. Maybe today. I’m a bit weak at the thought of it. But strangely, at the same time I’m just a bit invigorated. Already I’ve shared my experience with people, already I’ve begun to make plans, to imagine possibilities that never would have occurred to me if all of this ‘tragedy’ hadn’t happened. I think that I really am beginning to believe in the possibility of surprise, happy endings. Note: I am still cleverly offering myself an out; I’m not entirely convinced there’ll be a happy ending here, just more inclined than a couple of days ago to think there might be one waiting for us not far down the road… Just to be clear. ! Gotta cover my butt. I mean, how stupid would I look if I got all excited about this great new future of the Studio, and then – nothing happened. (It’s the dimmer vision of the two, but I can still see that possibility, too.) Because the huge to-list ahead, frankly, just doesn’t seem possible when I think with my brain from last week. This week’s brain, however, seems to think there’s hope… Hm. Crazy? I still don’t know what’ll end up happening. I’m as curious and eager as anyone to see the outcome.

At first, in those hours shortly after my epiphany regarding the new course of the Studio – the flash of inspiration that involved radiant heating, re-purposed floor and all, I’d felt divinely guided. And even now, in this moment, I do believe in that concept on some level. But in spite of the wonderful and loving support of friends – and the confidence I have in a larger force at work here – I’ve still felt that familiar shadow of doubt creeping in on me again… “Come on, silly. You’re thinking way too big here. Sounds great, but, really? Ya really think you can pull a project like this off??” The voice of ‘reality’ has begun already. The magic is so soon under threat of realistic goals and most-likely outcomes… I stop myself for a moment, and let it all just settle. I sit and think. Consider the road ahead. Really and truly, can there actually be a future for this vision of the Studio that I hold close my heart? I can surely see it – hell, I envisioned it when I’d moved here five years ago – but still it’s hard to place my faith in it. I mean, when I take a step back and look at the bigger picture on paper it really doesn’t look like a plausible scenario. After all, we live with the help of food stamps, we run out of heat a time or two each winter and I have to work full-time plus teach on the side and be a mom (oh yeah, and take care of a bunch of chickens and a ornery gander. Not to mention get in a garden). As things stand right now, this Studio thing is pretty much just on me, and I already have so much on my plate. Or am I forgetting something…?

I pause again to digest, to consider the resources within my current world of friends and acquaintances. One thing I learned in running a cafe and nightclub was to delegate. That is probably the most important aspect of any successful business; that the captain of the ship delegate tasks to those who are talented in what they do, motivated, energetic and most importantly, get your vision. So I guess the most immediate task before me is to clarify what it is that I see happening in this new Studio. I need to get it down on paper, I need to think about it, turn things around in mind, cull, distill, get down to the core goals. I need a mission statement. I also need a board. And before I can do a thing as a legitimate NFP, I need to transfer dad’s Foundation identify to our new one as The Studio. Can’t get weepy now, it’s as it must be. Both dad and his dear friend who’d set the Foundation up in 1959 are now gone, and there is nowhere to go but forward. So there’s a list before me. Not as if I don’t know what to do next. And I suppose the more witnesses I gather here before me (that would be you) the more accountable I become. Yeeks. Raising chickens is a smelly pain-in-the-butt of a job at times, but easier on the whole and more predictable, I’m guessing, than what’s about to come.

Got a wonderful family lawyer who can help with this, got a logger who’s willing to front me some money before the harvest, got a dozen or so folks on the sidelines, waiting for their work to begin. It’s beginning to look like the train is slowly moving already. I need to keep my destination fully alive inside my head, I need to share the vision as much as possible, I need to sow the seeds. Then I need to get in the soil and get to work. Ok. Psyching myself up here. I’ll need a lot of re-starts and re-psyches along the way, I’m sure. At the end of the day, knowing that I’m keeping dad’s life’s work alive, and moving it into the future – that’s the stuff that makes me want to ignore the fear and keep plodding ahead. I can so imagine it. Concerts, classes, lessons, recitals, kids, adults, super-old adults, baby and mom movement classes, eurythmy, ballet, sculpture, clay, mosaic, drawing, painting, yoga, modern dance, Baroque dance, theater, classical and modern, early music, jazz, trad, folk… Structured concerts and jam circles… Moneyed folks and non-moneyed folks, arts available to all. No elitist crap, everyone’s welcome. It’ll be a supportive atmosphere…. a place people are excited to visit, a meeting place of all sorts, a place where you’re safe to start from knowing nothing, a place where you can begin to learn, a place where you can hear and see the works of artists at the top of their fields…. oh boy. I get it, just gotta get it down on paper. Streamline it a bit. But here is where it starts – a storm of the brain on paper, the great master list of possibility…

So now “beautiful January” has come, and gone. A hard, hard month for me. The first days without my beloved father. (Yesterday in the car I lamented out loud that I missed dad so very much now that he was gone. Elihu spoke up from the back seat. “He’s not gone, he’s just not here.”) It’s been one of the most aesthetically beautiful winter months that I can remember – days of snow-covered woods and fields, days of white-on-white magic, the purest-looking January ever. Clean and new, patient, cold and waiting for the changes soon to follow. Such a month of extremes, this beautiful January has been, and with it has come start of something unexpected and new. Thanks for the heads up, dad.

 

Year Anew January 1, 2014

Some folks have been complaining about 2013, bidding it good riddance, speaking of it with various expletives and such. My first response is to think something like ‘damn right, this was a painful and terrible year, hell with it’…. but then I realize, bad things happen every year. Good things too, and if I take the glass half-full attitude, I realize that the old year wasn’t, in my own personal world, half bad. That my father died in 2013 doesn’t make it a bad year. It makes it a precious year. One in which I enjoyed all my final moments with him, one in which I had the honor of witnessing his death. That is no small gift. Yeah, the past year has been rich, full and good. (That being said, I’m still ready for a new one.)

It’s the weight loss season again, and so I begin to do a little review of 2013 and my advances – and retreats – on that front. I’d started last year on the crazy Atkins diet, and while it was successful, and I ended up looking pretty good for my 50th birthday and subsequent trip ‘back home’ to Chicago, by the time fall came, and with it home-made apple pies and fresh home-baked bread, I let it all go. I knew I was begging trouble, but it was a quality of life thing for me. I’d had it with eating nothing but meat, cheese and vegetables for the past six months and I meant to enjoy all I’d missed now. I realized I may have gone too far in ‘catching up’, but some little voice told me ‘screw it, you made your goal, now live’. And really, in that time and place I wanted to be there. Joining my son every night, sharing the same menu and this time having home-made dessert. I’d never baked bread before in my life, so the discovery in fall of 2013 that I could do so – and easily – without even so much as a loaf pan – that kinda blew my mind. And once you’ve made it, you feel you gotta eat it. There’s only so much that two people can eat though, and it’s hard to enforce portion control when there’s always more on hand. And so I ate. And then with the stress of a bigger work load, plus my dad’s decline and death, I ate to soothe myself. And while that tiny voice told me I needn’t eat quite so much to make myself feel better, I did. I knew full well it would come to this, and it has. I am back to exactly the same weight as I was one year ago today. Almost twenty pounds are back. Which means that I saw my body change by forty pounds. Yeeks. If I think too long about it, or catch a glance of my pudgy jaw line in a mirror, I want to weep, to sink into despair. Cuz I was there, goddamit, and now I’m back. But that’s ok. That is what New Years are for. Starting over.

Over the past year I’d been very intrigued with death and dying, too. Scared shitless of losing my father, and wondering what exactly it was that a person’s natural death looked like, I’d gone on YouTube binges that would freak many people out. I watched embalmings, assisted suicides, cremations, interviews with people who knew they were dying. Anything and everything so that I might better get what it was to witness a loved one die, and then make those after-life decisions none of us ever really talks about. I meant to demystify death. I’d read my share of Elizabeth Kubler Ross years ago, but never did click with her old-school language. ‘Yack, yack, yack’, I remember thinking. Let’s get down to it, lady! So in 2013 I began to read more on near death experiences – something I’d known about for years, but had begun to read now from a new perspective. And when my own father began to point towards the corner of the room, asking me who all those people were, and when he told me he saw my cousin, and that he missed his mommy, I was glad I’d re-read the literature on this experience. I do get that many folks think these end-of-life occurrences are merely the brain playing tricks on itself in the final moments of life, however I certainly do not. Me, I know that a soul is what animates a body, and quite simply, it has a separation process to undergo at the end. And while I would never had dared to speak my opinion on this subject so candidly in the past, now I feel I can. I’m off that hook – I’ve experienced it myself, I know. And I’m not quite as afraid of death as I was. The loss is still so very sad, and I can see it will continue on…. But having been with my beloved father during his transition has helped confirm for me what I already believed. So now I go into my own future, and move closer to my own death, with some important questions resolved.

My son’s now approaching an age in which his entire outlook on the world will change and mature. Ten now, eleven in a few months, 2014 will likely be the year in which the true magic of childhood ends. Santa, the birthday angel and the Easter Bunny won’t be visiting after long. Even in the cocoon of Waldorf, he will soon know for sure. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be. I’ve savored his small years, even documented a few of them here on this blog, so I can’t feel that I wasn’t present for them, or appreciative. I was. As I write this, he’s sleeping in, catching up after a whirlwind visit to Chicago and dramatic return. Over his visit, and while I was sitting vigil with dad, Elihu was going through a pretty big health scare, having visited the emergency room for knees that had blown up so they’d awoken him in the night – he said it felt like knives – and being told it might possibly be juvenile onset arthritis. Or Lyme disease. And in that I myself had fretted all fall over the Lyme v. growing pains debate – only to be told by nurses and moms alike not to worry (!!) – I kinda knew. And what relief that it was Lyme and not arthritis. So we’re dealing now with that, and the stock regimin of antibiotics to follow. (I am just kicking myself because I really did suspect it but caved to everyone else’s opinion.) Mom, Andrew, Elihu and I went out to dinner late last night (he had his favorite escargot and frogs’ legs) and we were very late to bed. Now he’s sleeping like a teenager, and deservedly so. But what he doesn’t know is that Santa made one final visit to us here at the Hillhouse last night. He even knocked some of the ashes out of the fireplace as he’s done before. Santa knows that it’s the eighth day of Christmas. He knows Elihu is back home. As I sit here and write, I’m keeping an ear out for his bedroom door, for the footsteps, that momentary pause…. He’ll run in to get me, and I’ll be sitting here in my chair, unawares, and then he’ll tell me, with a look of amazement on his face, that Santa has come! Yesterday, when Elihu asked me if I though Santa might come here, I took on a somber tone and cautioned him not to be disappointed, after all Santa had already been to Illinois. But look! He made it here after all! This is a Christmas I will savor, because by next year it will be brand new territory.

Ah, such ambivalence I feel for brand new territory. I listened as my elderly father expressed his longing to be back in his childhood home and wondered to myself, where exactly, do our hearts consider to be true home? Is it the home and hearth of our tender years – or the home we made as young parents to our own tiny ones? I suppose there’s no one answer. But there is one truth for us here on earth; time continues to move forward, and our situations, though they may appear to pause in time at different stages of our life, continue to evolve and change. A sorrow and a blessing. A missed memory and the happy anticipation of a new experience. They exist so closely, these disparate conditions, and they tug our hearts in such different directions. I can’t say that I’m thrilled with the march of time, but I also can’t say that I don’t want to watch my son grow up and one day create a family of his own. I admit it, at my age, and having seen what the end of life looks like and knowing I’m closer to it than I am to my youth, I’m not moving into the future with the zeal that I once did. I’m moving toward it with a more measured approach. It’s coming no matter what, but I’m not running to meet it anymore. It’ll be here – and gone – soon enough.

 

Big Year December 31, 2012

I’m feeling the need to write some sort of summation, some sort of re-cap of this past year. There’s just so much to remember… too much. Lots of people we know and love have died. That’s the first thing I think of. The world didn’t end. That’s the second thing I think of. And it just continues to go on and on…. that’s what I think next. So what do we take away from 2012? I’m not exactly sure. But I do think something new is underway…

I do think we’ve turned a corner, that energetically we as a species have changed our trajectory, but I admit, it doesn’t necessarily look that way from today, New Year’s Eve, 2012. There’s been plenty of violence, pain and ignorance this past year to make it seem as if it’s business as usual on this silly planet. Yet still, I believe – call me naive if you like, I’ll accept that – that we as humans are no longer on the downswing. There is now a critical mass of people on this earth who share a witness to the corruption and inequity all around us. There has never before been a time in history when so many are so educated and informed about the world in which they live. And although the number of folks in communication with each other thru social media and other devices may still represent a minority of the planet’s population, I believe the global trend is moving towards mass connection on an order we can’t quite envision even today. I dunno. Could be incredibly optimistic here. Maybe. But maybe not. May as well keep hopes up, keep expectations high.

For me personally, this year meant the end to my four year divorce process. I also got my first real job in a decade. I quit smoking in earnest too. No more bummed smokes here and there to take the edge off of life. Took the death of a friend to get me there, but I made it. So this year has been good. Heartbreaking, poignant, but solidly good and forward-moving. I’m surprised, however, that I don’t find myself in the high spirits I thought I might be today – could simply be that my son is gone and my house has taken on a quiet, solitary mood. Could be that my day to day reality still seems like a challenge; the magic of the coming New Year doesn’t necessarily mean it will be any easier to resist a smoke, workout daily or miss things and people absent from my life.

I’ve said it before and I say it again now, this is a tough planet on which to live. In order to try and help us all along here, I’m going to do my very best to right the wrongs I’ve committed, to take the hopeful path when doubt arises, and if all else fails, watch a Monty Python skit if I just can’t wrest myself out of a hopeless funk. !

It’s been a big year, yet the future’s much bigger still. I wish for us all the very best and brightest adventures ahead…

 

Song of the Spheres January 1, 2012

It was on a New Year’s Day, more than half my life ago, that I heard it. I’ve only told the story a handful of times; I’ve seldom felt that anyone would really believe me. I’ve also never felt brave enough to take the chance that my listeners might think me crazy. In the telling of this story they’d know that I wasn’t entirely legitimate or believable anymore. There was the great possibility that my audience might think that I experienced something entirely in my imagination. Maybe even pity would ensue. “And she seemed so together..”. What still surprises me about this event long ago was that I was in no particular way educated or prepared to receive such an experience; I wasn’t focused on things metaphysical or spiritual nor was I in any special state of mind that day when I set out for a walk in the woods. It was a snow-covered New Years’ Day like any other here in upstate New York.

It was cloudy and gray on that first day of January. That’s always been my favorite kind of weather – I love the mood it sets. Timeless, directionless, calm. It just feels centered, peaceful. We four Conants were in our tiny farmhouse, each doing nothing much out of the ordinary. Without much to occupy myself, I decided to take a walk outside. All my growing up I’d spent hours upon hours in the woods in wintertime. My brother Andrew and I had so much fun as kids playing on the frozen expanses of water that lay in low spots in the forest, breaking the ice like glass and marveling over the beautiful shapes and patterns it made. Today, rather than head out to the low parts of the woods, I thought instead I would head up the hill and explore the woods just beyond the edge of our open yard. There was a stand of many uniform-sized Scotch pines that clustered together in that spot, creating a space in the woods that was unlike all others. Only recently did I learn that the trees had been planted there by the property’s previous owner. That explained the perfect, almost surreal quality to the area.

I’d been walking only a very short time when I arrived at what seemed to be the center of the trees. I drank in the vision; hundreds of pine trees, all the same shape and size, going on in each direction as far as I could see – trunks, straight and black against the snow, me in the middle. Me, nowhere. Me, anywhere. I might even have panicked as to how to get home but for the tracks I left in the snow. I was truly free to feel the essence of what it was to be here, now. The forest was quiet. Not a snap of a twig, not a rustle of a rabbit, nothing. All was softened by a foot of snow. Then, after a few moments of silence, something began to change, almost imperceptibly at first. I may have thought my ears were ringing. I do remember wondering – if only for a split second – if I might not be hearing music coming from the old house. But any wondering vanished as the phenomenon began to grow. Something was happening. I was imagining nothing. I was hearing music. Gorgeous, sophisticated music. This was very real.

I don’t remember feeling scared. I do remember feeling a sense of urgency; I knew this was a rare phenomenon and that I had to understand it as best I could, and as quickly as I could. I would be methodical and identify its elements. First, where was it coming from? I turned in circles, looking out to the branches, hearing the music flowing around me, from above, from below. From everywhere. As soon as I thought I’d found the right direction, and stood facing it, even cupping hands to ears, it would slip somehow, and it then seemed to come from another direction. And I cannot say it changed directions, it was more like it truly seemed to come from each  direction equally. “Ok”, I thought, “Forget that. Just try to concentrate on what kind of music it is.” So I listened a moment more. It was contrapuntal, with several different voices. They were moving toward each other, away from each other, moving in parallel – many lines that wove themselves together in the most organic way. The first thing that came to my mind was Bach. That would have to do for now, I had to identify the instruments. I listened. Bells, clear, pure-toned bells. Yes…. No… As soon as I was satisfied with my answer, the sound morphed. Into voices. Yes, voices. Male? Female? Can’t tell. Both? Yes… No… no, wait… then again, it changed. It became horns. Pure, sine-wavelike tones that seemed to be French horns, no, kind of, but not exactly… I realized that the music was all these things at once. After I’d spent maybe three or four minutes trying to identify its components, I realized that I’d done all I could. All that was left was to simply enjoy it. To soak it in. So I just stood there, marveling. Dumbfounded and yet not. I just stood there, alone, in the music.

Within maybe a minute of having given up my efforts to identify the music, it began to fade. Now I did panic. I remember calling “No! No! Please, don’t leave!”, turning in circles, trying to recapture the source, the moment. I was begging it not to leave, and realized that tears were coming down my face. But it continued to fade, as gently as any sound could ever disappear, and then in a few more seconds, it was gone. And the woods were quiet again. Not a thing felt any different than it had just a few minutes earlier. I’m surprised I wasn’t more shaken up. Rather, I wiped away my tears, collected myself and stood there. Wow. What had just happened? Why had it happened? Did it have something to do with it being New Year’s Day?? I knew it might never make sense to me as long as I lived. But even then, I knew I had been very, very lucky that the music had chosen to come to me. It would just have to be my secret.

I didn’t spend any more time in the woods. I walked down the hill, back to our small house. Without disclosing too much, I thought I’d at least inquire whether Dad had been playing records on his mother’s ancient all-in-one stereo cabinet, as he sometimes does over the Christmas holidays (I can hear him in my mind singing in a bold voice along with the music…”dance then, wherever you may be, I am the Lord of the dance, said He…”) but no. He hadn’t. “Why?” my mom asks, facing the sink, finishing some dishes. “Oh, I thought I heard some music when I was out in the woods.” I answer in the most non-committal way possible. Even if he had been playing records, there’s no way that tiny box could have carried all the way out there… “Maybe you heard something from the Michel’s?” she posits. ‘Forget it’ I thought, and let it drop. I didn’t mention it again to anyone for years.

A few years later, my parents sold their home in Chicago and moved year-round to upstate New York, where they then built their dream home, just up the hill from the small cottage where we’d spent our vacations. Once, after one of my father’s Baroque concerts, a group of friends and musicians enjoyed some food and drink ‘up at the house’ afterward, as was always the tradition. A woman who’d known me all my life, and who in the early years had sung at my father’s music festival was in the group that night. Perhaps because she was a dowser, and unapologetically so, as well as being a church-going woman of gentle character (loved by all who knew her), I felt comfortable enough to tell my story. I remember Ruthie looking at me, with that smile of hers, unsurprised, listening. When I finished, no one but she had anything to say. She pointed out that the house itself stood where those trees once did. Perhaps, she suggested, that the universe may have known of things to come. Hmm. Was that all it was? A heads up? A little nod from spirit that this is an auspicious spot to build a new house? Perhaps it was part of the equation. Don’t know. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I was very lucky that day. So I’ll just take it at that.

There is a sad and beautiful song called “The Night We Called It A Day” in which the lyrics mention hearing ‘the song of the spheres’. Sometimes, when I’d sing that line, I’d think to myself that I actually had heard that song. I wondered, had Mr. Adair? Or was he just using it as a poetic lyric? Just how many people had actually heard the ‘song of the spheres?’ Besides – was that what I heard? If so – if that music had been given a name – I must be one of many who’d heard it too. I’ve googled and searched. Never found any account similar to mine. Not until this past summer. I finally met two other people who’d also had their own unique and unexplainable auditory experiences. Made me feel a little better to hear their stories. Validated. Not so crazy, not so alone. That feels good. And I’m getting braver. That feels good too.

Now I’ve told my story. A nice way to start the new year, I think. May we all grow braver in the coming year, ears attentive and hearts wide open.

 

Inventory December 31, 2011

This has been an amazing year for me. Didn’t really hit me until I printed out all my 115 blog posts and created a dated table of contents. I was able to see in one fell swoop the passage of my year. It was actually rather stunning. One year ago this very night I had no blog. No stories had been told. The only voice I had was the damnable monkey mind which swung along from tangent to tangent, me following maddeningly behind it. Writing calmed the chatter somewhat; it gave it a destination, a goal, a form. And so I found my true voice, and with it I discovered a sense of connection, of peace.

So I got that goin for me. Which is nice. (Yes, reference intended. And btw – how cool is it that my kid shares a name with Ted Knight’s character in Caddyshack? ‘Elihu, will you loofah my stretch marks?... sorry, monkey mind). But today I feel especially hopeful for my future as I step back and admire the fruits of my vision and labor (as well as the labor of an old friend) as made manifest in my new, not-so-sketchy basement. Elihu has long been afraid to venture there, yet it’s where his drums are, it’s where my office is. It’s also been where EVERYTHING else was. You know, the crap that just kind of finds you. So this week I set out to tame the crap. I won! The result – sore arms and back, tired body – but the beginnings of a basement in which Elihu and I will make many hours of joyful noise along with students and friends. I’ve already spent a good bit of time downstairs just looking at it. Cuz it’s so beautiful. And it’s just the beginning.

While my life is improving, I do have friends going through some truly difficult things. Some far worse than what I’ve endured. So I’m hesitant to simply say that this new year will be brilliant. For me, I believe it will be. And for our planet, I do think things will begin to get better. But this is indeed a world of duality – where darkness and light coexist. All I can do for those still facing personal challenges is give them my love. And that I’ll do so freely. For I now remember what it is to feel good, to feel hopeful –  something that’s taken a lot of time and work to achieve – and I mean to share it when I can. My heart truly goes out to those who have difficult personal journeys yet before them.

Whatever the future may bring, we have finally arrived at the last day of 2011.  So much talk about the changes to come. So much importance given to the year 2012. Regardless of the high profile Mayan calendar predictions, regardless of people’s varying interpretations of what this year represents, I believe it will indeed be yet another year of speedy change, upheaval and great transformation of we humans here on Earth.

In keeping with the frankness I’ve written with on this blog, I feel I must admit I’ve gone through a great deal of study over the past few years on the immediate future and how it might unfold. I’ve read hundreds of articles, visited countless websites and begun to pay better attention to the small voice of discernment inside of me in order to filter out what simply didn’t ring true for me. At first, when the messages of impending doom began to reach me, I admit I followed their leads, and often found myself investing a lot of time and energy into thinking all manner of horrific scenarios through to their gruesome conclusions. As time passed and my heart slowly began to heal, I began to pay less attention to the prophets of doom and gloom. For me it seemed that the healthier I got, the more attention I gave to the brighter promises for our shared future. In the wake of the huge change in my life and the depression that followed, I’d become familiar with the more metaphysical and spiritual approaches to mental and emotional health. Having spent a year working with a holistic counselor here in my new town, I found myself putting into practice ideas that had intrigued me for years. I learned the experience of timelessness through meditation, the toxic power of ignorance, guilt and regret, the ultimate power of love and forgiveness. The work I’d begun in order to heal myself became a foundation upon which I then began my search for answers and ideas about the upcoming earth changes that so many talk about. My new attitude brought me the possibility of a bright and beautiful future for us all.

It’s hard for us humans to understand whether we are victims of our environment or if we indeed create our realities as many insist. I do know that where we put our attention and energy helps pull in more of the same. It’s a crazy double-bind; you’re poor, so you worry about being poor, and more of that reality comes to you. I’ve wrestled with it for the past three years. (Whenever I say that I wish I had money – Elihu corrects me and says ‘mommy, you have that money now, and doesn’t it feel good? Little Buddha…). I find it’s not entirely accurate to say that we simply ‘choose’ how we feel about things, that we can simply ‘choose’ our realities. Ultimately, it’s true, but it’s not done in a minute. It’s much, much easier said than done. But I do believe that we can slowly turn the boat around, our intention going out before us, slowly pulling us closer to our goals, even while we’re throwing temper tantrums and crying in pain and just plain not feeling good. Thankfully, I do believe I’ve finally managed to turn my little boat around in spite of some pretty big waves.

So where is my little boat going? Where is this great ship Earth headed? I believe that it’s headed for a logarithmic explosion of connectedness and love. I do. I am stunned at the speed of inventions, the change of attitudes, the genuine collective desire for transparency and the good of all. When I moved here to New York three years ago, I didn’t know about Facebook yet. In spite of its frustrations and hiccups, it’s expanded my personal world in ways I am ever grateful for. In many ways my own life has grown exponentially because of my ability to connect with virtually (and virtually connect!) any bit of information I might be curious to investigate. I get so excited when I think of all the possibilities… I almost get panicked wondering if there’s enough time to learn it all…

Thank you, all you hundreds of people I do and do not know, all of you who’ve said hello and offered your support. I haven’t responded to many of you, and I feel pretty crappy about it. I want you to know that I’ve read everything you’ve written to me. I often feel conflicted when I hear from you; do I deserve this support, this attention? I’m moved to tears by so many of you, and I want to apologize for not responding with my most heartfelt thanks and love; it’s in great part because of you that I’ve been able to transform and grow. In this new year I promise to write everyone back. Because that’s the one thing missing from my inventory of this past year.

My heart is full. Thank you, dearest friends.