Should I Sing or Whistle?

Photo: Red-winged Blackbird 1

I can neither whistle nor sing as beautifully as a red-winged blackbird, but my heart is willing!

One of the most interesting exercises during my quick hospital pajama party the other day was the opportunity to watch while a cardiologist did an echocardiogram on me. I’ve had one or two in times past, but never when I could see the monitor and watch it in progress, let alone ask the person administering it what I was seeing and hearing, and I found it to be a surprisingly charming entertainment, along with the informative aspects. Primary, of course, in its pleasures was to be told that everything seemed entirely operational and quite healthy. Seeing how each chamber was measured and observing the various valves in action, watching the graphic representation of the individual parts’ particular and distinct  rhythms and patterns coalesce into a wonderful zigzag of electrical cheer while hearing the  live sound—this was all intriguing and encouraging in any number of ways.

But even more than my spirits, the actions and sounds of my heart had me feeling both surrounded by and immersed in song and dance. It was a lovely surprise to someone who has never known anything particular about the heart in the abstract, let alone had any chance to experience my own in action. The thrumming of my pulse changed with every move of the technician’s hand, each valve and artery having its own part of the whole melody, singing at its own pitch and speed. The view of each valve seemed like a tiny pantomime synchronized with the sounds, and some valves looked (from the side) for all the world like pairs of arms waving as the hands clapped in joy, or perhaps like the waving movement of an exuberant conductor coaxing a choir to sing; one overhead view was so like a mouth singing along with my own heartbeat that I thought perhaps I was seeing a surrealist movie of some marvelous conga-accompanied south seas musical number.

Today, a few days of rest and healing down the road from any sort of emergency, I am feeling so much better already that I have a slight sense of being ready to burst into song or dance myself, the larger (and far less graceful) embodiment of these inner workings. I won’t, of course, not least because I’d still tire in about two turns or trills. But when the songs, calls, and whistles of the grackles and cicadas, crickets and our newly ensconced red-tailed hawk neighbor ring through the trees, I am pretty nearly guaranteed to join right in myself. I think I’d forgotten how that felt, for a while.

Photo: Red-winged Blackbird 2

Good health is certainly a heartwarming bright spot in the day!

Freedom

Freedom must be one of the most commonly used words in American English. It’s a constant in the rhetoric of politicians, educators, religious leaders, and—oh, yeah—of marketing professionals. And it means something different to every one of them, often to the same person at different times. Most seem to equate it with what they see as their individual right to do whatever-it-is that they wish to do, and give the word specially loud emphasis when what they wish to do is contrary to others’ rights, real or perceived, or to the law. In some ways, I tend to think of Freedom as a much smaller thing with a much larger personal impact: freedom from my own limitations.

That’s the freedom I seek, and I suppose, the freedom that only I can grant myself, but am persistently too fearful to dare. Afraid to consider, let alone accept. Amazing, when I reflect on it, that I’ve gotten to this ripe old age, let alone had such a full, joyful life, without being quite able to let go of my inborn fragility of spirit. But there it is. I limit myself to solo singing in an empty house, to dancing behind closed doors. It doesn’t really matter that nobody else would pay that much attention if I did this stuff right along with everyone else; it’s that I feel self-conscious and awkward and don’t like my self-image as singer or dancer or anything so near to being extroverted.

Does this make me unhappy? No. It’s more mysterious than upsetting…I love to hear good singers sing, watch uninhibited dancing. I admire people who are extroverted enough to do whatever they jolly well please without regard to how silly it might make them feel. I like to think I don’t care how silly it makes me feel. But I’m holding on to a modicum of insecurity about not wanting to make other people feel a teensy bit uncomfortable with my gross incompetence. Silly me. Really.

Go on, keep dancing, you over there! It makes me happy. No strings attached.Digital illo: Dance On

It Speaks to Me

What attracts us to certain artworks? Whether book or stage production, painting or photograph, dancing or theatre, singing or instrumental music, there has to be something with which we can connect for the work to have any meaning for us as individuals.Photo: Book of Languages

Some of those connections are obvious: an author with whose philosophy or politics I tend to agree is more likely to produce a book or script I enjoy than one whose beliefs are wildly different from mine; if I favor a specific style or period or medium, I’ll probably always find the works within them resonating in my heart more often than those from unfamiliar or less loved types.Photo: Familiar Passages

Other attractions might be more tenuous or less overt. I read a whole lot online nowadays, both factual and fictional, but I still enjoy reading magazines and books, and there is no digital substitute quite yet for the fine roughness of antique paper pages in my hands and the musty scent of old books.

Dusk to Dawn

digital illustrationCoal & Diamonds

Strangely enough, the bond of sleep, that weight of Lethe sitting on my soul,

Reminds me constantly to keep from letting diamond days turn back to coal,

For stillness rejuvenates bone and blood and sinew strong enough to bring me on,

And sleep is a portal through which a flood of musings sweep me forward to the dawn,

So rest is essential, and there I lie, seeming immobile while I dance at speed,

Or mounting on magical wings to the sky, to soar as sweetly high as I should need

To see in sleep, in my mind’s eye, new ways to spring from dark to day’s desire,

To find in the darkness of night what I love most amid the constellations’ fire

And planets and comets’ tails’ dross and stone what I can reinvent as suns for day,

My own coal-diamonds, blood and bone and sinew turned to chasing night away.digital illustration

Electricity

Strung more tightly than violin strings, the two sweeping the darkened, smoky room in a feral arc know a dance that defies all others. Piazzolla provides the backdrop of sound, but the pulse is found far deeper inside–somewhere near the center of two souls, perhaps. Will the world implode in this, their passionate spin? Love, darkness and brilliance compel their moves; time will race or freeze and stars may blaze or die, but as long as the dance goes on, the night will be filled with mystery and animal joy that only these hearts could possibly make. Let the music stalk on, and learn to live and die of love: here in the night, the tango burning in these two will keep a world of beauty pulsing long beyond their lives.

digital artwork

Love, or Something, Conquers All

Is there something else you want to tell me, sir? You say you are a musician, yet I distinctly recall that on evenings around the campfire you’ve always strummed off-key and your songs are always unrecognizable to your fellow players. You tell me that you are a skilled horseman, but I have known you to fall off every mount you ever met and the way you’re always sneezing makes me pretty sure you’re more a specimen of the allergic type than a cowboy of any real sort. As for your claims of being a king of the romantics, they strike me as far more hopeful than strictly factual, considering that you cannot read, write or dance, never remember to comb your hair or wash your face, and are cowed into stammering and foot-shuffling when actually in the presence of anyone even slightly ladylike.

Forgive me, then, if I tend to take your claims with a certain jaded skepticism. I am fairly certain I do not want to listen to you bash away on your two-stringed guitar, to watch you topple out of the saddle the instant your horse makes a move, or to wait for you to wrestle up the courage to make small talk while I dream of my escape from your company. And if you should persist in attempting to convince me that you are the master of the Wild West, I shall be reduced to the expedient of dispatching you with a hefty branch of mesquite laid across your noggin, stuffing you into a handy gunny sack and slinging you over the back of a mule headed toward some terribly remote corner of the prairie.

Other than that, though, I suppose I don’t mind your company. A girl can’t be too choosy out here on the frontier if someone offers her his family fortune and she has her eye on a particular set of acres for ranching. Business is business, after all.digital illustrationOn Closer Examination

A fella whose flaws were prolific

And both manners and taste quite horrific

Filled my soul with alarm

But still had one great charm–

His inheritance, to be specific.