“Loss is nothing else but change, and change is nature’s delight.” — Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor)
“I am the joy in change and movement.” – Steve Wiencek (Milwaukee guy)
It could be a person who helps you see things clearly, a place you go to collect your thoughts, or an object that reminds you of your achievements. You could also go for something more literal, like a reflection in water. Or something that demonstrates both interpretations of the word.
I think I have a pretty active dream life. I usually remember something of my sleeping hours upon awakening. Perhaps that indicates the level of my anxieties and neuroses; I’m not sure. Steve says he hardly ever dreams, and he thinks it’s because he is so aware of his conscious mind while he’s awake. Well, fine for you, then. I blink my eyes open and forget where I am. I need decompression time every morning. My dreams almost always include my late husband, who has been dead almost 4 years. It gives me a rather fluid sense of reality. Jim is real and Steve is real, they’re just never real at the same time, in the same place. Is that weird? Oh, probably. I’m getting used to it.
The other thing I do in dreamland is sing. I wake up singing a song, or with a song stuck in my head. This morning, it was “The Rose”, a song Bette Midler recorded some years back. I think I learned it from one of my kid’s elementary school music programs. The line I was stuck on went like this: “Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed. Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed. Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need. I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed.”
Now why in the world would something like that be dominating my waking transition? I thought about that for a while. Then I began to cry. This is how I know when I’ve hit on some repressed emotion, some way that I think about myself that I don’t like to admit. For some reason, I was associating with that tender reed, drowned in a river of love. I was 15 when I met my husband, 21 when we married, 45 when I was widowed. My youth was engulfed in loving him. I don’t feel a great resonance with the bleeding soul bit. Ah, but the hunger, the aching need; yeah, that gets to me, too. I feel that for my kids as well. I call it “yearning”. I yearn for my kids all the time, no matter where they are. It’s a visceral thing. I once learned in a Bible study that there is a Hebrew word for God’s loving-kindness that translates to a verb form of the same word that’s used for a mother’s womb. Womb-love. God “wombs” us. I “womb” my kids. I also “womb” my dead husband.
Now the last line of that first verse, I will take exception to. “You, its only seed” just sounds too exclusive and attached. It doesn’t fit the scope of the rest of the song, either, in my opinion. Second verse: “It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance; and it’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes a chance. It’s the one who won’t be broken, who cannot learn to give; and the soul afraid of dying who never learns to live.” Okay, you could probably guess that verse gets to me all over (see yesterday’s post). Although, in my case, it’s the heart that once danced, the dream that once dared, the one who gave everything already who is afraid to live again and invest all that…again. So, here’s the key change and the big finish: “When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long, and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong, just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed that with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the rose.” At this point, I want to give credit to Amanda McBroom who wrote these lyrics. Good job. I love the idea of seeds beneath the snow. It appeals to the naturalist in me, even though we STILL don’t have any snow this winter in Wisconsin. I love the idea of hope and new life. And this is where I get to re-write that last line in the first verse. The seed of love isn’t a person. It’s LIFE, life itself.
Steve and I were talking about this yesterday as we drove out to hike the Ice Age trail. He was urging me, again, to talk about what I want in life, how I want to live, why I want the things I might want. “Why do you want to have land and grow food?” I want to nurture living things; I loved raising kids. I loved because they lived. I want to live life loving. Whatever I do. It’s a cyclical thing, the flower that comes from a seed and begets more seeds that become more flowers. Life begets love which nourishes life…and so on. Okay, maybe this is sounding like drivel to you. There is something going on here, though, and it’s about a flow of energy passing from living thing to living thing, and some of us call it love. I don’t like the idea of that energy being confined to one “beloved”. That’s where I think I’m getting stuck. I say love, it is a flower and all of life can be its seed.
There. Sorry Amanda, but I have re-worked your song so that it fits my dreaming and waking life a little better. Hope you don’t mind.
Gospodi pomiluj. That’s Church Slavonic for “God have mercy”, same as the Greek Kyrie eleison. I remember learning a setting of those words in High School choir. The entire text of the piece was just those two words, repeated over and over at increasing dynamic levels. The suffering of the world thrown high to the ears of God. There were moments in the opera last night (Boris Godunov) where this poignant plea rang out and reached my heart high in the upper balcony, but unlike a Puccini moment, it didn’t take full hold. Why not? Well, I could bicker about the staging, pointing out that the chorus milling about in the background distracted from the Holy Fool’s aria downstage left in front of the floodlight. I could point out that the composer wasn’t really a professional and didn’t provide enough scene change music to set off these important highlights. Others came in later (Rimsky-Korsakov, for instance) and tried to make Boris a bit more theater-ready, but the Lyric staged the original version. But perhaps the more intriguing discussion is about the way Russian suffering compares to Italian – or Buddhist – suffering.
This iconic Russian opera includes a large chorus of peasants, children, boyars (advisers), soldiers and priests. Russia’s suffering is peopled. By contrast, Puccini’s operas often concentrate on the suffering of one or two lovers. You feel the depths of their grief in soaring melodies, cry with them, and feel cleansed. (Think Butterfly, Tosca, Boheme.) Russia’s suffering would never be so finite. It’s pervasive. The czar embodies this and its relentlessness drives him mad. Well, that and hallucinations of a child he supposedly murdered. But he cares about his people; he tries to feed them, and they still blame him for every want. How do you find peace?
Buddhism addresses peace from the inside out. It isn’t a peace that you could pass on to a population as their leader. The best you could do is find it for yourself and try to be a role model. It would be quite a challenge to maintain it as the head of a huge, suffering nation. Would that be the Emperor of Japan’s story? Or China’s and India’s story? Actually, the Met is currently showing Phillip Glass’s opera about Ghandi (Satyagraha). It was simulcast in theaters this past Saturday. Missed it, but hoping to see the encore screening December 7th.
Here’s another thought about nationalism and identity: there’s Mother Russia and the German Fatherland; what parental figure do we have connecting us to American land? Uncle Sam? Does that mean we are orphans?
I have to say that exploring and addressing my personal grief and suffering through Art is like taking a bitter pill with a large spoonful of glittering sugar. Costumes, twinkly lights, gorgeously rich bass voices and sympathetic violins really take the edge off. I appreciate the genius and consider myself enormously fortunate. Thanks for the grace and mercy. Oh, and I hope Erik Nelson Werner wasn’t badly hurt when he fell off the set in a hasty exit.