Archive for September 26th, 2017

Calling

amywink September 26th, 2017

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After my mother died, I missed her music the most. I had grown up under the piano in the churches where my father served and later, once he’d left the ministry, in our homes where she practiced on the nineteenth-century John Broadwood piano until it could no longer be tuned. Then she practiced on her 21st century digital piano which staunchly held the red Methodist hymnal binder she’d played from my entire life. I still have the hymnal and both pianos even though I do not play more than one handed. I do sing. My brother sings. My father still sings beautifully, despite his Parkinson’s disease (Of course, we sing. We’re Methodists). We played too, my brother the guitar, I the violin (a long time ago) but once my mother died, the pianos were silent, and I really missed her music. I missed the hymns.

When I set about creating my life again in the year after her death, I knew I wanted music again, maybe to play (though I had put the violin down a long time ago), maybe to sing, but mostly to hear because I missed it. I missed being in the music of a choir, surrounded by sound and joy, feeling the sound of the spirit that had moved my mother and filled my childhood. I bought tickets to a performance of the Austin Baroque Orchestra’s production of Bach’s Passion of St. John (the patron saint of writers) and invited my oldest friend, who I had played violin with in the orchestra and also sang with in the choir until we finished high school together, and we went to see the performance and another violinist friend from high school who had been in orchestra with us (someone truly gifted who is now a professional). We were lucky to know her then and lucky to see her now.

Listening to the voices of Bach’s oratorio of John the Apostle poet returned me also to a language I had tried to learn earlier in my life. Though there was a printed English translation and also projected on the wall, I followed the German printed in the program instead. As I listened, reading, I recalled what I had forgotten, returned to what I had lost, not just in the music but also in the words. Listening to how Bach had made those German words beautiful in their music was as delightful to me as the entire performance. Something was coming back to me in the music and the words, in the connections to my old friends. It was still hidden but something I had put away was on its way back to me.

I still thought it was the music and that’s what brought me to church the next day. Where could I find free music? Where might I be in a choir? Church. And I wasn’t wrong about that. I just didn’t know yet what really drew me there, what I really needed. I was a little out of practice listening for the Creating Spirit but the Creating Spirit was not dissuaded. I was way out of practice of church.

We had left the Methodist church in 1972. I was 7. I walked into First United Methodist Church at the age of 51. It’s not like I hadn’t darkened to door of any church since I was 7. I wasn’t exactly the prodigal child, but, well, I was way out of practice. I went with someone who was not out of practice, another new old friend who’d returned to my life in a way that can only be described as Providential. She had grown up in this church. Her mother had known my mother when they lived in San Antonio and went to church together. We’d gone to college together and now worked together– one of my students looking for me had found her and then she found me. It’s all a bit spooky, really, and if I was writing a novel, someone would surely complain about all the plot devices I used to get where I was going– as if God had said “I have got to get these two crazy kids together.”

But there I was, back at church, walking up the steps, to be with my old friend, upstairs in the introvert’s balcony, to listen to music and remember and grieve my mother. And I was in the right place. The completely right place. But it wasn’t just for the music. On the way out of church that day, I chatted with one of the pastors, who was about to head to Paris and then to walk the Camino de Santiago. Paris, where my dear friend and writing partner Stacey had meant to go her last spring before she died. Her favorite city. The city of where I know her soul lives.

The Creating Spirit whispered gently “See? There’s a poem here for you to write. Write it.” And I listened and I did.