Monday, August 3, 2015

As Another Summer Fades to the Roses

It's coming up on the end of summer and for those of us who live our lives by the seasons of the marching arts, we know that our seasons don't follow the traditional norms of the Gregorian calendar. Our winter ends in April and our summer ends in August. Winter starts in October and Fall begins in July. We are forever beginning one season, before the current one has ended. For me, summer always begins the weekend of the running of the Kentucky Derby. It's the start of a new season that cycles us through the Triple Crown, Memorial Day, and hockey playoffs. It's the signal to a new season and the questioning of what lies ahead. The end of summer for most us reading this, culminates on a Saturday night in August, when the new drum corps champion is crowned. Not long after that, we will be looking toward a new school year, football, marching band, and winter guard. It all cycles through and just like that, summer fades to autumn and it is season's that dictate the meaning of time in our souls. It's DCI week and it's the week we start to say goodbye to another year of drum corps, as we change our profile pics on Facebook as a tribute to an activity that has meant so much to so many. 

I was thinking today about the kids who have worked so hard this summer to bring us the next phase of drum corps. They are achieving feats on the field that most of us could only imagine. I often wonder if Nadia Comaneci feels as I do when she watches gymnastics and how her sport has developed into a world she couldn't have imagined when she stood on the podium accepting her gold in 1976. I had the privilege to see not just one, but two DCI shows this summer. Living in Florida doesn't afford me the pleasure to view drum corps without significant travel and money, but this year I made a point to see two shows. I relished in the music, talents, pageantry, and friendship. I spent time visiting the past as I greeted old friends in bars and coffee shops for long felt hugs and conversations of times gone by and present day struggles. The beautiful thing about drum corps is that time stands still during those moments. I've noticed...and I'm not the only one this happens to...that during a weekend of drum corps, you feel as if you have been lifted into an alternate universe that can only be described as a gigantic bubble that wraps you up in laughter and music. It's our own world and it allows us to time travel while we tell old war stories as if by telling them, we can connect with a piece of ourselves that got lost somewhere in the concept of the "real world." In the weekends lost to drum corps we forget about the bills, the madness of politics, our careers, and the struggles daily living brings to each of us. Returning on Monday is like a cruel time warp awakening you to a dystopian society.

When the summer began for me back on May 2nd, during the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby, as I watched the first of three races that would guide the nation towards hope as American Pharoah raced to toward the roses, I knew this summer would be more than any normal summer for me. Life as it always does, can catch up with us and sometimes we have to stop and pay attention to the crazy and dirty details, whether we want to or not. It was important to me this summer to connect with a part of me that has so much. Saturday, August 8, is our activity's run for the roses while characteristically and notably ending what we know as the summer of 2015. 

Dan Folgerberg once wrote a song about the infamous race called, Run for the Roses. In his typical eloquent fashion of writing songs, he describes a horse that is born into the sport as if the universe told him upon birth, "This is your calling. This is your time." When I hear the song, I always think about the kids starting their season in their time and how this song perfectly encapsulates growing into the champion they become by August. 

"They never can prepare you for what lies ahead" he says. What an understatement that is. You can't possibly prepare for the emotional roller coaster that leads you from May to August. The internal struggle as you fight to become better than you could have imagined. Your sore boyd and exhausted mind makes you feel that you can't do another day, but you do and you wake to enjoy one more day in the sun of a mid western football field. 

"Your fate is delivered your moment's at hand." When Secretariat won the Derby in 1973, he did it in a little less than two minutes. Your entire life comes down to two minutes around a track and all your training and all your life's energy exists to live up to the gift the universe gave you when you came into the world. It's right around two minutes that the performers stand on the field staring up at an audience that's staring back at them, waiting for the drum major to signal the start of their ultimate moment. In their hearts they know that their moment is at hand and they must deliver.

"It's the chance of a lifetime in a lifetime of chance." It seems to me that the older we get, the less opportunity we seem to have to take the chances of a lifetime. Maybe that's why in middle age we start to look at our lives as what we have settled for and what we have grown to tolerate. Life as precious and beautiful as it is, seems to get harder the older we get in its series of give and takes. Taking chances becomes harder as family and finances become priority. I'll never forget the night I stood on the field in Buffalo for finals as the announcement was made, "Star of may take the field for competition." It all came down to a single moment where my entire life seemed to have lead me to this one moment in time, where I could feel my heart as it connected to the beat of the first note. Every practice came down to the breath I took as I started the show with my fellow performers. I wanted to win. I wanted to take it all. 

"It's breeding and it's training and it's something unknown that drives you and carries you home." You know, the beauty of the American spirit is that we will always strive to achieve more than could have ever been imagined. We look to push our bodies harder than we thought it would go and our minds into creative realms that forces generations of the past to scratch their heads and wonder aloud, "Isn't that remarkable." I have to personally thank the Star of Indiana for its breeding and training it gave me in the short two years I competed on the field of drum corps. I realize now that it wasn't drum corps I trained for. It was life. 

Two years on a football field that lead me to a championship ring taught me so much more than how to spin a flag. I learned perseverance to stick with it when life got hard. I grew a backbone that allowed me to stand up for myself and for my beliefs, when no one else would. I learned when to cry and when to suck it up and push forward without fear. I learned how to hold on to the people that mean the most and to not throw away the moments the universe hands you randomly and indiscriminately. Because of two seasons of drum corps, I know how to stand on my own and then pick myself up when I have fallen down and recover in a count or less.

I have almost a quarter century behind me since I stood on a football field with a flag in my hand and I can't help, but acquiesce to the love that I carry inside me to this day for the people and the moments they helped me create. As I look at the profile pictures on Facebook as they change from our daily lives to the lives we lead during the Summer Music Games of the past, I look at them with longing for times gone by, the connection we have to each other because of this silly activity, and love for a life we have been so lucky to have lived.