Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I spent some time outside this afternoon, just enjoying the air. Gently moving air, I find particularly wonderful; and particularly so, this time of year.

Autumn is the season of Metal. The "Metal vibe" is especially strong in New England and in the high Sierras--I'm sure it is elsewhere too, but that's where I've felt it most strongly. I've even felt it in the middle of the Nevada desert. Los Angeles doesn't really have the same energizing "wow" that those other areas offer, but this year, I've felt a lovely softness in the air; it has had the spirit of Metal, but very gentle, almost ... tender, on the soft breeze.

Metal is the element that grants the power to grieve.

I happened to catch some travel show on TV this afternoon. The host was in Paris, and he took us to the church of Saint Sulpice, and we heard that incredible organ that they have. The organist was really digging into the console (mechanical action, five manual organ, all five manuals coupled together, you have to dig in), and he was playing a piece that I had learned, and played, when I was at Yale.

And I started crying. Really crying. The first time I've really cried since The Diagnosis. The first time since I really cried over what I have lost, because of M.S. disability.

I remember the organs at Yale--especially the one that has the same kind of action, and is in the same kind of stone building, as the one I just saw on TV. I remember the feel of the keyboard, the "snap" as you press down the keys and open the valves that let air into the pipes, the crispness of the air within the church, the almost-tangible "feel" of the organ's sound filling the building, and its delicious reverberation.

I remembered playing for the funeral of Maya Hanway, a dear, sweet girl who killed herself during our senior year. I played a Bach prelude and fugue in e minor, something with some crunchy harmonies, because I felt like we were all struggling with both what she had done and her loss and we needed to come to speak the truth of that struggle. And yet, the piece ended in triumph, with a beautiful E major chord.

And I heard that piece in my head, as I had played it, in that room, on that organ on that day, and I knew...

I had to say goodbye to the organ. Yeah my hands still work fine and on the right instrument I can still do functional things without using my feet, but... the organ, as I have known it for my entire life, as an instrument I can just walk up to and suddenly work miracles with... to that, I need to say goodbye.

If my legs start working again will I go back to playing it? Well, hell yeah... probably... but I've been hiding from this moment, clinging to "now, we really don't know if the leg-control issues are permanent, blah blah blah blah deny deny deny deny..." ever since my legs started going south.

But it—whatever "it" is, in my relationship to the organ—is gone. And so is everything that I had associated with it--especially, the ability to instantly connect my heart to the manifestation of spiritual transformation through music. I could put my hands and feet on it, and let my heart sing through it. For me, the organ was not about "performing" or "playing the instrument," it was about transformation, it was about catalyzing emotional and even spiritual transformation, through the sound of that wonderful, wonderful instrument.

And I need to say goodbye to it. I think I'm all "cried out" for the moment, but I share this with you to help me make this goodbye real.

The trees lose their leaves so that the new ones can grow—there'd be no room for new life if the old, useless ones hung on and took up all the space on the branches. Life creates death, but death creates life. And that new life cannot full arise and come into its own... without that death.

So my task now is to really and truly, fully and completely, say goodbye to my old life with the organ. What new creation will grow on the branches, once the old leaves have fallen?

That's for Spring to worry about. Right now, it's the time to express, and to live fully within the truth of, the power of Metal.


Peace Be With You said...

Yes ...

Treasured mementos
of the self I used to be
who now lives within.

Though I did not explicitly state it in my poem, I too was grieving. It will be an ongoing process, I suspect. Some day there may be "closure," perhaps in a form I recognize, perhaps not.

This was a powerful and poignant expression of your grief.

BTW, thanks for catching my spelling error, embarrassing for an old spelling bee enthusiast.


nicole said...

I feel like I should offer you condolences. I'm living your words right now. As a matter of fact I think my grieving time is up!

Kayla said...

What a beautiful and powerful post. I love the connections you draw between nature and the seasons and our own personal seasons. I've never heard you play the organ, but as a fellow musician, I grieve for you as you grieve this loss. I'm sure that the new creation on your branches will be beautiful.