Sunday, July 26, 2015

Love and Time...I Think I Get It Now

It's 1:00 a.m. in the morning as I sit here staring out of the window of the 9th floor of the Omni Hotel in the city of Atlanta, contemplating the last 9 days that took me from DCI San Antonio to DCI Atlanta and from the real life of professional work to band camp. Work to marriage. Friendship and love. As I stare out the window looking down on a city that has over the years offered me so much, drinking a glass of cabernet and listening to music from artists that speak the language of love, I find comfort in an activity that hasn't just defined me, but supported me and loved me, even when I haven't always felt supported and loved and when I haven't always loved myself.

4de484ae52a555c10141ce261958b027.jpg (236×314)Love.

As a writer, love is the one topic that keeps me writing. What is it? What does it mean? Where does it come from and why does it seem that some are more deserving of the emotion than others? Love. What are its forms and why do we spend a lifetime trying to define it? I think, for the first time in my life, I understand love. I found it in a form so different than the normal love we all have in family and friends...I the moments of stillness while moving from one pageantry activity to the other. 

The first time I came to Atlanta for anything related to the marching arts was in 1997, to see a BOA regional with Ron Comfort. Ron called me up on Friday morning and said, "Hey girl...take off work we're going to Atlanta." So...being the irresponsible 27 year old I was, I did take off work and we did Atlanta that is. It was a weekend that was not just fun. It was epic. We still talk about it to this day. Over the years, I have returned to Atlanta for more BOA, DCI, and WGI. No matter what the season, I keep returning to Atlanta and when I leave on Sunday, I always leave with a story and a memory. I have so many people to thank for my many Atlanta's, as they go so beyond the marching arts. It's about the hang. It's about the Omni. It's about that awful TacoMac. It's about warm ups and the dome and music and twirls. It's about watching this activity/sport of ours progress and grow. It's about friends who hold your hand throughout life.

I sat tonight watching drum corps from my club level seat on the 45 and couldn't believe how in my lifetime, I've seen this activity move from some dorky marching "thing," to art. It's art that is unmistakable and remarkable.I teared up watching the Blue Devils and reveled in the awe inspiring works of friends I once shared a field with back somewhere in the 90's in the bug filled, heat driven madness of the Midwest. 

During my DCI weekends in San Antonio and Atlanta, I had many a cocktail with great people and long time friends. The meetings were random and they were special.

The absolute randomness of the moment with friends, which create those moments that you know will never happen again. The ones between friends. The deep conversations and random acts of hugs and touch that occur during the unplanned laughter over a glass of wine and the intimate conversations about our lives. It seems that the older we get, the fewer those moments appear, but the more special they seem. It's in those moments when we fear to say, "I'm so tired, but I have to go to sleep now." Knowing once that sleep comes, we will wake up to the monotony we call our lives. Drum Corps weekends give me that randomness and lately in life...I need it. It's those friends you see on a concourse headed to their seat that has your history. They know your past. They know you.


To live in the moment is probably the greatest lesson drum corps ever taught me. There is no tomorrow and there is no yesterday as you stand staring into the the sea of a thousand faces with your head lifted waiting for the momentous words "you may take the field." It's in that moment when you know you're alive, feeling your heart beat as if its on the outside of your chest. Of course today, they don't tell the performers to take the field, but it's still there. It's whispered in the air to those of us who lived this activity many years ago. Its a brief moment of silence while the performer waits for the announcements to stop and the music to start. It's the stillness that tells you that you are alive and living, while you wait to give your all to thousands. There were approximately 18,000 attendees in Atlanta watching young people give their all and the only thing I felt for them was love.

I watched two young performers tonight walk in front of me on the concourse of the Georgia Dome. They were wearing their corps jackets with shorts, sandals and a tan that screamed Iowa, Illinois, and every other mid western marching field in the middle of nowhere. They must have been just a mere 18 years old. I wanted to walk over to them and beg them to hold on to this. Love it and get to know every soul on that field you march with, because one day life will take hold. The jacket will be tucked away in a box somewhere and the Midwest tan will be just a memory. I wanted to tell them that they will find that in life, they will have to pay hefty bills to the debtor known as career, spouse, children, and time. I wanted to reach out to them and touch time. I wanted to say that one day, many years down the road, they will watch as their parents age and die. I wanted to tell them that they will go broke at some point and that their heart will get broken multiple times as they struggle day to day to find meaning and purpose in this thing we call life. I wanted to hold them and say, "You were beautiful on that field today." I wanted to hold on to them like they were a time capsule whisking me away to a moment in the early 90's when I heard the words, "You may take the field." I wanted to know if their heart raced like mine did and if the feeling of performance has remained unchanged with the art that has developed throughout time. I wanted to tell them to remember the silence of the seconds between when then announcer's voice ended and drum major's hands lifted into the air to signal the start of a memory.

So as I give one last hug to life long friends and look back to see them move off into the distance, here at the end of my two weekends of drum corps, I am reminded of my moments on the field of pageantry. Those moments however, were almost a quarter century ago and as in life those moments are gone; tucked away as a part of my soul. I carry them with me, though. I carry every person, every laugh, every tear, every hug, and every kiss into the hard moments of life. They get me through. The friends and lovers are why we live and why we keep coming back for those moments of silence within the hugs.

It's love. No matter what corps, band, or guard you marched in, it's love. I get it now. We search so hard for love in our lifetimes, but we were given such a gift within the marching arts and that gift is love. We are so lucky! One day many days in the past, each one of us woke up to some random act of universal madness and found that our destiny's would be found on some football field in a corn pasture in Iowa. We woke up to love and what I have found is that it's the only love that personally...has been unchanged and has gone unwaivered. When life got hard, it was the friendships that existed in the Atlanta's and the Georgia Dome's that have kept me going. It's those friendships that remind me to live as Federico Fellini once said...spherically and with wild abandon. 

My wish is that we carry that palpable feeling of "you may take the field" with us throughout time. When life gives us those life changing moments when we don't really know they are life changing until time has passed into the distance, then years later we can truly say we lived and in the end we will say that the greatest gift the universe handed us was the gift of now, when we stood upon the drum corps field and heard the words "you may take the field." Because as it is in life...there is no tomorrow and there is no yesterday. There is only now and regardless of tomorrow it is now that matters and now that is real. You know, all the hours of life add up. I'm just happy mine adds up to the love I found in the pageantry arts. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Music Was My First Love

“You’re the strangest person I ever met,” she said and I said, “You too,” and we decided we’d know each other a long time.”

When I write, I often…more often than not…write with a specific song in mind. I have found throughout my life, as many of us have, that music speaks to me when nothing or no one else can. There are times when even I don’t know how to find what’s lurking in the dark reaches of my soul. Music however, can do that. The right melody or right lyric can transform my thoughts from sadness to happiness or take me back in time to what seemed more innocent. When I heard Jason Ehleben’s song Wake while sitting at work listening to Pandora, I immediately saw myself in a world much different from the present. I felt a pleasure that only comes with the memories of childhood and the reflections of a life that once again sits on a precipice of change. With that, I connect you to this, which was written with Wake  playing in the background.

It’s been 31 years. Arrogance would tell me that in those 31 years I’ve seen it all, knowing full well “all” is still yet to come. I’ve shared in moments of pure joy and downright despair. I’ve traveled all over the country and at times (admittedly not as often as I would like) outside of the United States. I’ve been a witness or a participant in marriage, divorce, birth, jobs, job loss, and death. I’ve watched, as most of us do, the aging of my parents as I stand dismayed at the passage of time. It has been 31 years and there are times that the emotion through a song on the radio or the exact hint of the rain on the pavement on a hot summer day can take me back to the innocence unfettered by time. Looking back, music was my first love. 

Time. Dr. Seuss once asked the question.

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn, How did it get so late so soon?”

31 years ago this summer I attended band camp as a high school freshmen. We were a band that went away to camp and standing on hot asphalt at the age of 14, there was no possible way that I could have foreseen how my life would be transformed into a world of music, marching, and friendship. I remember holding my flute and struggling with the concept of playing while moving, memorization, and perfection as an ensemble. I can’t say I remember many details about that time in my life, but I remember the feeling. I remember the people. This past week I got a chance to revisit my hometown of Nashville...Music City. On one very special Friday night I had the opportunity to have dinner with two friends from that time in my life. In all levels of rational thought, we only knew each other for a short time, but the struggles of those days in band connected us for life. Facebook has created incredible opportunities for my generation, that enable us to keep tabs on and catch up with people from our past. My generation is the first generation to get to middle age and not have to repeat the phrase, “I wonder what happened to such and such?” Nowadays, chances are that “such and such” will at the least know someone who knows someone who will report their whereabouts on Facebook. We are in a time when we can share pictures from days long gone, jarring a memory or two once forgotten. Social media is an amazing invention allowing us to stay in touch and if you aren't careful it can be dangerous. Too much visiting of the past can impede you from living in the present. However, sometimes visiting the past is necessary to be able to move into the future. There’s nothing though that Facebook does, that makes up for the face to face meeting of old friends sitting around reminiscing about the past and sharing in the present day questions of how our lives have turned out. In that dinner we talked of adolescent antics, how the times have changed, and our own personal failures. We spoke of despair we felt of friends we’ve lost along the way and how those friends have left an indelible mark on our lives. It was truly a special moment and we didn’t hide ourselves from each other. We were raw and we were real.

There seems to be an unspoken rule about friends formed on the field of music that no matter what, we will be real. We will be honest. If you aren’t then what’s the point? Why pretend you are more than you are? Why try to say you are happy when you aren’t? It’s those people who have been with you for decades, who cried with you when you were 15, that should be able to cry with you when you are 40. It’s an amazing gift in life to have someone who remembers when you were a child and who knows you as an adult. They are the ones when life beats you down who will tell you what an amazing person you have always been. They will see your beauty as a child see’s a butterfly, because they knew you before you became the butterfly you are today.

Later that night, we went and sat on the old practice field and talked. That’s when we could truly feel the authenticity of our lives. It was if God was giving us a brief moment to connect back to a time that allowed us to be truly human. Marching band, at least the one I was in, was not unlike any other sports team where you learned the lessons of life through the field of victory and defeat and I couldn’t help but wonder, if those that weren’t lucky enough to have what we had, still connect with old friends in similar ways? Do they have the bonds of a lifetime, because I know that personally I don’t connect with friends from Algebra class. I connect with friends from band. Ironically, the song Music Was My First Love, was our closer in my 10th grade year. It's a song that would define my life.

In the end, I looked over the practice field a realized that I really couldn’t remember any specifics about that time. The details are fading with age and the laugh lines that contour my face. It’s all now an amalgam created by time, but in that amalgam made up of friendship and music, all I could feel was love. I couldn’t remember the details, but I remembered the music played by people unimpeded by time. As we begin a new season of band camps, my hope for this new generation of kids is to be in the moment. Feel the heat of the sun on your face and embrace the moments of struggle. Find your tribe and stick with them, because when you are my age, you will want someone who remembers the details of you.